Asian Shares Rise On Dovish Fed Comments

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Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Wednesday as investors welcomed dovish comments on monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve and eagerly looked forward to the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam later in the day.

Chinese shares ended higher after Fed Chair Powell reiterated the U.S. central bank would stay patient on monetary policy in the face of a slowing economy.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 12.31 points or 0.42 percent to 2,953.82 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended marginally lower at 28,757.44.

Japanese shares ended higher as gains in the defensive sector offset profit taking in China-related stocks. The Nikkei average climbed 107.12 points or 0.50 percent to 21,556.51, while the broader Topix index closed 0.20 percent higher at 1,620.42.

Pharma and realty stocks gained ground, with Takeda Pharmaceutical, Daiichi Sankyo and Mitsui Fudosan rising 2-4 percent. Komatsu, Keyence Corp and Yaskawa Electric dropped 1-2 percent.

Australian markets eked out modest gains as higher commodity prices on the back of a weaker U.S. dollar supported mining stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 21.90 points or 0.36 percent to 6,150.30 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 24.60 points or 0.40 percent at 6,233.60.

Mining giant Rio Tinto rose 0.6 percent ahead of its FY earnings announcement, while BHP added 0.4 percent.

Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy and Santos gained over 1 percent as oil prices bounced back on news that OPEC plans to continue production cuts despite comments from Trump.

The big four banks rose between half a percent and 0.9 percent. Bubs Australia soared 4.4 percent after it announced a long-term supply agreement with Bega Cheese subsidiary Tatura.

On the data front, official data showed that the value of construction work completed in Australia fell a seasonally adjusted 3.1 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2018, missing forecasts for an increase of 0.5 percent.

Seoul stocks closed modestly higher as investors eagerly awaited the outcome of the historic summit between Washington and Pyongyang slated for later in the day. The benchmark Kospi gained 8.19 points or 0.37 percent to finish at 2,234.79.

Carmakers led the surge as Hyundai Motor Group rejected demands by U.S. activist investor Elliott Management for a combined 7 trillion won ($6.3 billion) dividend payout.

Hyundai Motor shares rallied 5.3 percent, its affiliate Kia Motors advanced 1.5 percent and auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis added 3.8 percent. On the flip side, steelmaker Posco fell 2.7 percent.

New Zealand shares fell, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending down 41.66 points or 0.45 percent at 9,281.47. Shares of Air New Zealand declined 2.3 percent after it slashed airfares by up to 50 percent.

New Zealand posted a merchandise trade deficit of NZ$914 million in January, Statistics New Zealand said today - marking the largest deficit on record for a January month.

The Taiwan Weighted was marginally lower after a government report showed Taiwan's industrial production fell for a second straight month in January.

Overnight, the major U.S. averages slipped around 0.1 percent as corporate earnings proved to be a mixed bag and Fed Chair Powell reiterated a dovish approach to further interest rate hikes while warning about potential headwinds.