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Market Update

Asian Bourses Finish Mixed Amid Policy Speculations

Asian indexes ended on either side of the flatline Wednesday amid caution ahead of a key monetary policy announcement by the U.S. central bank.

On the gainers' side, China's Shanghai Composite climbed 0.2% on hopes of further policy stimulus. Local media reports said the ruling government pledged to achieve steady economic growth in the second half of the year, and further added it would seek stable and healthy development of the property market. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up early gains and slipped 0.3% lower.

Australia's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries, meanwhile, added 0.2% amid hopes of further rate cut by the central bank.

Japan's Nikkei dropped 1.5% and India's BSE Sensex finished flat, with all eyes set on the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Fed is expected to announce the conclusion of its two-day policy meeting later today. Investors are keeping a close watch on this event to get further cues on the likely timing of reductions in the Fed's asset-purchase program. Earlier in June, the central bank had hinted that it would scale back its monthly bond-buying program over the short-run if the U.S. economy continues to show signs of growth.

Stocks on the Move

Chinese property developers bounced high as hopes of further stimulus in the sector grew. In Hong Kong, Poly Property Group soared around 4% and China Resources Land gained 3.4%.

On the mainland, Gemdale Corp., Poly Real Estate and China Vanke traded above 3.5% each.

Metal players, however, slipped from early highs. Jiangxi Copper ended down 1.1%, Aluminum Corp. of China fell 3.2%% higher while Angang Steel lost 3%.

Among financials, HSBC Holdings Plc. and Hang Seng Bank finished near the flatline while China Construction Bank rose 0.7%.

Sydney-listed banking firms notched mild gains as hopes of an interest rate cut grew after Governor Glenn Stevens of the Reserve Bank of Australia passed dovish comments on Tuesday.

Westpac Banking Group and NAB climbed 0.1% while Commonwealth Bank added 0.2%.

In corporate news, Qantas Airways said it would hike fares on international and domestic flights as a weaker Australian currency increased its jet fuel costs. Shares dropped 0.8% on heels of the announcement.

In Mumbai, stocks recovered from early lows as the Reserve Bank of India stepped in to bailout the sinking rupee even as it neared its record low earlier in the day.

Among the top losers, NTPC tumbled 5.3%, ITC erased 2.5%, Hindustan Unilever eased 2% and Cipla fell 1.9%.

In banks, ICICI Bank lost around 2%, HDFC Bank retreated 2.5% while state-run SBI slipped 0.8%.

On the earnings front, telecom giant Bharti Airtel jumped 7.3% after posting better-than-expected net profit for the April-June quarter.

HCL Technologies also posted upbeat fourth quarter results; shares were up 3.5%.

Some earnings were also in focus in Tokyo, adding some gains to an otherwise lacklustre session due to a stronger yen.

Softbank Corp. lost 1% despite posting more than double increase in its quarterly net profit. Hitachi Ltd. gained 2.8% after its first quarter operating profit topped analysts' estimates. KDDI Corp. vaulted 6.9% and Tokyo Electron Ltd. bounced 3.7% after updating investors.

Most other exporters were, however, mostly lower as the yen grew stronger against the dollar, hurting their earnings outlook.

Top losers included Sharp Corp. (-5.3%), Nintendo Co. (-5.0%) and Advantest Corp. (-3.3%).

Power utilities and retailers added to the broad market losses. Tokyo Electric Power slumped 5.7% while Kansai Electric Power pulled back 5.1% even as retailers J. Front Retailing and Fast Retailing dropped 3.9% and 2.5% respectively.