Tokyo, Japan (BBN) – Asian equities were 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.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.58 per cent as the yen strengthened against the greenback, reports CNBC.
Australia’s ASX 200 was off 0.14 per cent, with heavy losses in its materials sub-index, down 0.89 per cent.
Mainland Chinese markets were negative during early trade, ahead of its key trade data.
Shanghai composite slipped 0.06 per cent and Shenzhen composite dipped 0.17 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.17 per cent.
South Korea’s Kospi gave up earlier gains to trade down 0.14 per cent, as traders await the expected Constitutional Court’s announcement about whether it will deliver it ruling on the President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, Reuters reported.
Geopolitical risks in Asia are mounting, with the arrival of the first components of a US-deployed Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.
The deployment of the system drew strong rebuke from China, even though the US state department said it has told China that the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system is no threat, but a response to North Korea’s latest missile test.
South Korean companies in China have since reported cyber attacks, store closures and fines, while state-controlled media has called for a boycott of South Korean goods and services, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has called for calm between Malaysia and North Korea after Pyongyang barred Malaysians from leaving the country in connection, which sparked Malaysia to do the same with North Koreans in its country.
On the economic data front, Japan’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product was revised up to 1.2 per cent from the preliminary figure of 1 per cent, as capital expenditure grew at its fastest pace in three years.
Late on Tuesday, government data showed that China’s foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly rose for the first time in eight months in February.
Reserves rose to $3.005 trillion in February, compared to January when reserves fell to $2.998 trillion.
“The rebound in reserves occurred in a backdrop of a weaker dollar across the board. As such, it is by no means indicative that the capital flows situation has improved on China’s merits alone,” said Chang Wei Liang, economist at Mizuho Bank, in a Wednesday note.
Ahead, trade data from China is due.
“Both imports and exports are estimated to show further strength in February, echoing January’s 15-17 per cent increases,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, in a Wednesday note.
“Any evidence of acceleration would not only support shares but also potentially re-ignite currency markets,” he added.
In company news, Chinese cellphone equipment manufacturer ZTE agreed to plead guilty and pay about $900 million to the US to settle allegations that it violated American laws by selling US technology to Iran.
ZTE was untraded on Wednesday at 15.28 Chinese yuan per share.

Wall Street ended lower on Tuesdayamid the prospects of higher interest rates and the House Republicans legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 29.58 points, or 0.14 per cent, to close at 20,924.76, the S&P 500 index was down 6.92 points, or 0.29 per cent, to end at 2,368.39, while the Nasdaq composite finished lower by 15.25 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 5,833.93.
The dollar remained was steady against a basket of currencies, trading at 101.76 on Wednesday morning in Asia.
The yen traded at 113.87 against the greenback, while the Australian dollar slipped from levels above $0.76 to $0.7588.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said at CERAweek that compliance among top global producers with a deal to curb supplies should improve in February.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that oil market fundamentals were improving after the output deal to cut global supplies.
But, oil prices were little changed as growing expectations of increased US production outweighed the Saudi minister’s bullish comments.
The American Petroleum Institute data showed that US crude stocks rose 11.6 million barrels last week, more than five times the level seen in a poll of analysts, Reuters reported.
US crude fell 0.1 per cent to $53.14 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent crude was down 0.2 per cent to settle at $55.92.