Japan’s Nikkei falls 1%; New Zealand’s central bank hikes interest rates

On Wednesday, Asia-Pacific shares were largely lower, with major indexes in Japan and South Korea leading regional losses.

The Nikkei 225 index in Japan lost previous gains, losing 1.05 percent to settle at 27,528.87, while the Topix index fell 0.3 percent to 1,941.91. The Kospi in South Korea fell 1.82 percent to 2,908.31.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 0.6 percent in the final hour of trading. Australian stocks fell as well, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 0.58 percent to settle at 7,206.50.

In Southeast Asia, the Straits Times index in Singapore defied the trend, rising 0.45 percent as of 3:20 p.m. HK/SIN.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 percent in total.

Mainland Chinese markets were closed for the holidays on Wednesday.

The RBNZ raises interest rates.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) hiked its official cash rate to 0.5 percent on Wednesday, joining South Korea and Norway as the first countries to do so in the modern era.

“The Committee underlined that further monetary policy support is projected to be removed over time, with future adjustments depending on the medium-term outlook for inflation and employment,” the RBNZ said in a statement.

Following the news of the rate hike, the New Zealand dollar momentarily rose beyond $0.697 before reversing and closing at $0.6904.

Overnight in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 311.75 points to 34,314.67, while the S&P 500 rose 1.05 percent to 4,345.72. The Nasdaq Composite rose 1.25 percent to 14,433.83 points.

Despite Tuesday’s improvements, all three major Wall Street indexes are still down for the week.

Oil and currencies

The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its counterparts, was at 94.18, up from below 93.9 earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen was trading at 111.71 per dollar, down from depths below 111.2 recorded yesterday. The Australian dollar was trading at $0.7241, down from a high of $0.7295 earlier in the day.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon Asian trading session, with international benchmark Brent oil futures up 0.44 percent to $82.92 a barrel. Crude futures in the United States rose 0.41 percent to $79.25 a barrel.

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