Asian stock indexes mostly lower as oil prices sink

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday, as crude oil prices dipped and mainland Chinese markets were hit by sell-offs late in the day.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.2 percent to finish at 16,906.54 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 percent to 5,216.00. But most other regional markets fell. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent to 2,005.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.3 percent to 21,164.78, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 2.6 percent to 2,964.89, dipping by over 4 percent before recovering some of those losses.

OIL PRICES: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.00, or 2.4 percent, to $41.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. At one point it fell by 2.8 percent to $41.30 a barrel. It rose 84 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international benchmark, slipped $1.02 cents to $43.01 a barrel in London.

EUROPE FOCUS: The European Central Bank's governing council is meeting, and investors are closely watching for what President Mario Draghi might say at the news conference later this week. Doubts persist whether the stimulus measures the bank has taken are really working, such as cutting interest rates and expanding a government bond-buying.

THE QUOTE: "Sentiments will be driven by the ECB President Draghi when he speaks," said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader at CMC Markets in Singapore. "In his previous speech, Mr. Draghi hinted that the deposit rate won't be cut further into negative territory. However with persistent low inflation and the euro now trading at six-month highs, Mr. Draghi could possibly backtrack on his previous statement and consider a further rate cut to fight deflationary pressure."

CURRENCIES: In currency markets, the dollar remained relatively strong, slipping slightly to 108.91 yen from 109.43 yen. The euro rose slightly to $1.1363 from $1.1336.


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