Asian Shares Fall Ahead Of US Fed Meeting

June 16, 2015

Shanghai (Jun 16)  Asian stocks fell broadly on Tuesday as investors adopted a cautious stance ahead of a new round of talks between Greece and its creditors on Thursday and the two-day policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve starting later in the day, with investors looking for clues as to when interest rates might rise.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in a German newspaper interview that he is not planning to present new reform proposals at Thursday's Eurogroup meeting, but the Greek negotiation team is "available at any time" to find a comprehensive solution with its partners.

Chinese shares fell the most in nearly three weeks, as margin tightening worries and signs of stepped up IPO issuance prompted some bearish traders to lock in recent gains. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index tumbled 175.56 points or 3.47 percent to 4,887.43 on across-the-board selling.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 295.11 points or 1.10 percent to 26,566.70, a 10-week low, ahead of this week's vote on a contentious electoral reform package backed by Beijing.

Japanese shares fell in cautious trading as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve meeting and the Bank of Japan's policy meeting slated for Thursday and Friday. The benchmark Nikkei average dropped 129.85 points or 0.64 percent to finish at 20,257.94, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares shed 0.73 percent to close at 1,639.86 in thin trade.

The safe-haven yen weakened against its major rivals after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he hadn't meant to predict the future movement of yen on nominal fx levels in remarks last week that sent the currency climbing against the dollar.

Banks fell broadly, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial losing 2-3 percent. Automaker Toyota Motor slid 0.2 percent after it won a controversial investor vote on issuing a new class of shares to long-term shareholders. Suzuki Motor shed 0.7 percent after signing a pact with Proton Holdings to rebadge compact cars.

Heavyweight Fast Retailing eased 0.4 percent. The operator of the Uniqlo casualwear chain has joined hands with consulting firm Accenture to develop digital innovation in customer service. Renesas Electronics rose 0.2 percent after announcing the Renesas Synergy™ Platform for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial markets.

Australian shares reversed early gains to end slightly lower after minutes of RBA's June board meeting offered no clues on when the central bank might cut interest rates. The minutes showed that the central bank had assessed the impact of past easing on the economy while leaving the cash rate unchanged to assess information on economic and financial conditions as it becomes available. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose as much as 0.6 percent before surrendering all gains to end the session down 3 points or 0.1 percent at 5,535.8.

Mining giant BHP Billiton dropped 0.6 percent, Rio Tinto lost 2.4 percent and smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 4.9 percent due to weak commodity prices. Oil & gas stocks such as Santos and Woodside Petroleum fell 2-3 percent after crude prices fell for a third straight session on Monday on fears of oversupply. Insurance Australia Group soared 4.3 percent after announcing a strategic partnership with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Westpac rallied 1.8 percent after the lender unveiled plans to reduce its stake in BT Investment Management from 59 percent to between 31 percent and 40 percent through a share offer to institutional and retail investors. ANZ rose 1.3 percent, Commonwealth gained 0.6 percent and NAB advanced 0.8 percent.

In economic releases, new motor vehicle sales in Australia decreased for the second straight month in May due to lower sales of sport utility and other vehicles, although the rate of decline slowed from the previous month, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.

Seoul shares fell notably on foreign fund selling, with sentiment hit by worries about a Greek default and the MERS outbreak as South Korea's health ministry reported three more fatalities, bringing the overall death toll to 19. The benchmark Kospi average fell 13.60 points or 0.67 percent to close at 2,028.72, dragged down by tech shares.

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