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Equities

Nikkei Asia300 Index slips after U.S. equities drop from record highs

Investors await key economic data from China

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan edged lower on Wednesday, after U.S. equities retreated from record highs overnight and as investors awaited China's fourth-quarter economic data.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index fell less than 0.1% to 1,491.19.

The tepid performance came after a choppy session for U.S. markets overnight with the S&P 500 Index closing lower after rising as much as 0.7% earlier. While the 0.4% decline on the benchmark gauge wasn't too significant considering that it is perched near record highs, the intraday volatility spooked investors.

"This increase in volatility (on U.S. indexes) suggests traders are becoming nervous that the market may already have anticipated the strong profits this quarter," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. "If further selling does emerge over the next session or two, it will signal that a correction is under way."

China's fourth-quarter gross domestic product, its December retail sales, as well as industrial output data are due early Thursday. Economists polled by Thompson Reuters forecast Asia's largest economy to have grown 6.7% in the December quarter. They expect December retail sales and industrial output to have risen by 10.1% and 6% respectively.

Hong Kong property company Wheelock rose 2.5%. Its unit Wharf Holdings outbid nine peers to secure a 50-year land grant for private residential development for HK$12.45 billion ($1.6 billion). Wharf's bid of HK$28,531 per square foot is a record for Kowloon area, according to a South China Morning Post report, which said a unit of Wharf's controlling shareholder Wheelock will develop the plot. Shares of Wharf closed 2.5% lower.

China Life Insurance added 2.8% after saying that accumulated premium income increased 19% last year.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises, India's largest listed media company, dropped 3.3% after its third- quarter net profit missed analysts' expectations.

India's Sun Pharmaceutical Industries rose 0.9%. The drug maker said late Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with U.S-listed Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Allergan to resolve a patent litigation for marketing generic version of a prescription medication to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Hong Kong-shares of Huaneng Power International rose 0.6% after the company said total generation by its power plants within China in the fourth quarter of 2017 increased 23.6% on year.

In country indexes compiled by Nikkei, China added 0.2%, Hong Kong rose 0.3%, and Taiwan edged higher by 0.1%. South Korea dropped 0.6%, while India's gauge was little changed.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies dropped 0.2%.

--Nimesh Vora

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