By Chao Deng
Most Asian shares were slightly lower Wednesday, following deadly terror attacks in Brussels.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.80% fell 0.3%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.21% was down 0.5% and Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.96% closed 0.3% lower. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.33% was off 0.4%. Shares in Shanghai were choppy but finished up 0.4%.
Investors appeared reluctant to make big bets ahead of the Good Friday and Easter holidays. U.S. stocks slipped overnight, snapping a winning streak.
Airline stocks in Asia were mixed. Japan Airlines Co. . /zigman2/quotes/202202214/delayed JP:9201 -0.79% was up 0.7% and ANA Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202790240/delayed JP:9202 -0.98% fell 0.5%. Singapore Airlines Ltd. . /zigman2/quotes/208369943/delayed SG:C6L 0.00% was last up 0.4%.
Earlier this week, China moved to encourage investors to buy stocks using borrowed money, following last summer’s debt-fueled market meltdown. Analysts are watching to see what impact that move will have. In addition, speculation that authorities will soon announce details about a trading link between the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges has also spurred buying.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.46% has been hovering near its highest levels in two months. On Wednesday, the ChiNext index of Chinese startup stocks was up 1.7%.
Still, “given that mainland-listed Chinese equities are still overvalued and the balance of risks for the economy is still to the downside, we remain cautious over the medium-term,” said Chua Han Teng, Asia analyst at BMI Research.
Earlier Wednesday, Chinese authorities guided the country’s currency slightly stronger to 6.4936 yuan to one U.S. dollar, reflecting strength in the Australian dollar in the previous session, even as the euro and yen slipped in the wake of the Brussels attacks.
In Thailand, the baht recouped earlier losses after the Bank of Thailand kept its benchmark rate unchanged. It was last at 35.04 baht to one U.S. dollar, still weaker than its Tuesday close of 34.93 baht to a dollar.
The Philippine central bank also stood pat Wednesday, as expected.
Brent crude was recently down 1% at $41.37 a barrel, as traders looked ahead to U.S. stockpile data and a meeting of major oil suppliers.