Asian markets under severe pressure

Foreign news

Asian equities were mostly in the red on Wednesday amid mounting geopolitical risks in the region and rising expectations that the Federal Reserve would tighten monetary policy next week.

The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 0.47 percent or 90.1 points at 19,254, its third straight session of losses. Japan’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product was revised up to 1.2 percent from the preliminary figure of 1 percent, as capital expenditure grew at its fastest pace in three years.

Australia’s ASX 200 was off 0.03 percent or 1.73 points to close at 5,759.7, with heavy losses in its materials sub-index, which was down 0.81 percent.

Mainland Chinese markets finished mixed after it produced a rare trade deficit in yuan terms. Earlier, official data showed that exports in yuan-denominated terms had risen 4.2 percent from a year earlier, but imports advanced 44.7 percent year-on-year.

The Shanghai composite closed nearly flat at 3,241.18 and Shenzhen composite ended 0.36 percent or 7.3 points lower at 2,024.28.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.36 percent.

On Tuesday the People’s Bank of China (HKSE: 3988-OL.HK – news) said its foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly bounced back above $3 trillion in February, indicating tighter controls have staunched a flood of cash out of the country as the US prepares to raise borrowing costs.

The bank has spent hundreds of billions trying to curb the capital flight, with the yuan struggling at eight-year lows against the dollar.

In company news, Chinese cellphone equipment manufacturer ZTE agreed to plead guilty and pay about $900 million to the U.S. to settle allegations that it violated American laws by selling U.S. technology to Iran. ZTE was untraded on Wednesday at 15.28 Chinese yuan per share.