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Equities

Nikkei Asia300 Index falls as investor focus shifts to Fed minutes

Wednesday's minutes could offer cues on U.S. rate increases in 2018

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan fell Tuesday as investors await the U.S. Federal Reserve's May meeting minutes.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index declined 0.3% to 1,403.45. The index traded in a less than four points range before settling lower as two major markets, South Korea and Hong Kong, were closed on Tuesday.

Following a broad framework agreement over the weekend between Washington and Beijing to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, the focus on Tuesday turned to the outlook for interest rates in the world's largest economy. Minutes of the Fed's May meeting are due Wednesday, which will offer cues as to whether the central bank is likely to raise rates two or three more times in 2018.

"The mixed language from the last Fed meeting statement perhaps elevates the importance of the upcoming May minutes," Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Asia said. "While the Fed had stuck to their view of further gradual increases in rates, the comments surrounding inflation invited multiple interpretations."

Among major movers on Tuesday, State Bank of India ended 3.7% higher. While India's biggest lender by assets reported a loss of 77.18 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) for the March quarter, the increase in gross non-performing assets and net performing loans on a sequential basis was lower than many analysts had feared.

Malaysia's Petronas Chemicals dropped 3.1%, a day after its March quarter earnings. Morgan Stanley said in a note that it sees downside risks to consensus expectations as chemical prices underperform oil.

Telekom Malaysia tumbled 10.6% after reporting a 32% decline in the January-March period, weighed by a decline in revenue from most telecom services.

Singapore Exchange dropped 2.1% after the National Stock Exchange of India approached a court in Mumbai for an interim injunction against SGX's new India derivative products. SGX said it has "full confidence" in its legal position and its clients can continue trading as normal.

India's Tata Motors added 3.8% after Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the plan, that China had decided to cut import duty on cars to 15% from 25%. China is the biggest market along with U.S. for Tata Motor's unit Jaguar Land Rover.

Dr. Reddy's Laboratories advanced 6.3%. While India's third-biggest drug maker by sales reported a 3.3% decline in net profit for the March quarter, analysts pointed to the positive outlook for the company's generic business.

Indian Oil dropped 2.3% after the fuel retailer said March quarter net profit rose by a less-than-expected 40%.

Oil & Natural Gas Corp lost 0.7%. Moody's Investors Service said that as oil prices climb, the Indian state-owned energy explorer faced increasing risk of sharing the country's fuel-subsidy burden.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter in both the countries, that the U.S. and China have agreed on a broad outline of a deal to settle the controversy over ZTE Corp. Last month, U.S. announced a ban on American companies selling parts to the Chinese company after determining it made false statements on multiple occasions following its shipments of telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea earlier. Trading in the Shenzhen and Hong Kong shares of ZTE has been halted since April 17.

In country indexes complied by Nikkei, Taiwan dropped 0.6% and China edged lower by 0.2%, while India gained 0.2%.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies declined 0.5%.

--Nimesh Vora

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