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Asian markets trade mixed; Shanghai Composite index gains ~1%

Japan’s Topix index was weighed down by more than two thirds of companies trading without the right to current dividends.
Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday, with markets falling into a choppy pattern as investors weigh disappointing economic signs against a decisive turn towards accommodation by major central banks.

Japan’s Topix index was weighed down by more than two-thirds of companies trading without the right to current dividends. Declines for equities in Seoul and Sydney were more modest, while shares in Hong Kong and China opened flat to higher.

Energy stocks helped push the S&P 500 Index higher on Tuesday as oil climbed. Treasury yields were steady, while the yen trimmed overnight losses. The New Zealand dollar slid more than 1% after the central bank said the next move for its benchmark interest rate is more likely to be a cut.

Markets in Asia are struggling for traction after the steepest slide in regional equities this year greeted traders at the start of the week, leading some to conclude the tumble was overdone. A talking point continues to be the inversion of a part of the Treasuries yield curve, where three-month rates are above 10-year ones -- flashing a potential recession warning. At the same time, lower yields improve the relative attractiveness of equities.

Speculation that the Federal Reserve will need to consider lowering interest rates appears to have spread, with some -- such as Legg Mason Inc. unit Brandywine Global Investment Management -- even forecasting a cut this year. For his part, Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump’s pick for an open Fed board seat, said in an interview with the New York Times, that the central bank should immediately cut rates by half a percentage point.

Elsewhere, oil held onto gains in the previous session and was set to record its strongest first quarter since 2002 after Russia, the world’s second-biggest crude exporter, said it was on track with output cuts and disruptions to refiners along the Houston Ship Channel added to supply concerns.

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