HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks declined Wednesday as investors reacted to lingering U.S. political worries after most regional markets reopened after the Christmas holiday.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index of some of the region's most influential companies outside of Japan slipped 0.3% to 1,190.41. Japan's Nikkei 225 Average -- which tumbled to enter a technical bear market on Tuesday, having dropped 20% from this year's peak -- closed 0.9% higher on Wednesday. Markets on Wall Street were closed for Christmas on Tuesday.
Markets in Hong Kong, shut for Boxing Day on Wednesday, will reopen Thursday. The Shanghai Composite Index, meanwhile, shrank 0.3% on Wednesday for its sixth loss in seven trading days. The yuan traded onshore was little changed at 6.8876 against the U.S. dollar.
Regional market heavyweight Samsung Electronics dropped 1.2% in Seoul while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) gave up 0.5% in Taipei. Energy stocks fell amid a trend of deepening losses for crude oil prices. Sapura Energy lost 7.9% in Kuala Lumpur and PTT shed 4.2% in Bangkok, while the Shanghai-listed shares of PetroChina gave up 0.3%.
Investors remain concerned about the impact from political uncertainty on the world's largest economy after several federal departments began shutting down on Saturday in the absence of an agreement over funding between President Donald Trump and the Congress. Markets also weighed reports that Trump had discussed firing U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump reportedly said U.S. stocks offered a buying opportunity after the recent declines, adding that the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates too fast. The Nasdaq Composite is currently in a bear market and the S&P 500 Index is just shy of that milestone amid fears about a slowdown in the U.S. economy and rising rates. Some participants expressed confidence in their outlook for equity markets.
"It's important not to overreact to political noise," UBS Wealth Management wrote in a report. "Markets are pricing in too much pessimism about growth, are now attractively valued, and appear disconnected from still solid economic indicators. We expect equities to rebound over the next six months as political noise lessens and recessionary fears diminish."
Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction slumped 9.9% in Seoul on concern about the impact from the government's stance on nuclear power.
AirAsia Group climbed 3.3% in Kuala Lumpur after saying it'll sell a leasing unit with 25 aircraft to U.S. private investment firm Castlelake for $768 million, and lease back those aircraft as well as another four other planes due for delivery later.
Maruti Suzuki India gained 0.5% in Mumbai, despite news that it will recall 5,900 vehicles because of a defective fuel filter.
-- V. Phani Kumar