Asia Sinks in Fed Fallout

Asian stocks were almost uniformly lower, taking the lead from a quiet overnight session on Wall Street as investors parsed through minutes from the U.S. central bank.

Japanese markets were shuttered for holiday

The Hang Seng Index plummeted 295.55 points, or 1%, to 29,707.94

Korea was down, after markets opened an hour later on Thursday due to a nationwide university entrance exam. Blue-chip tech plays slipped, but several prominent manufacturing names climbed: Samsung Electronics fell 1.2% and Posco rose 1.9% late in the day. Cosmetics companies also made gains, with Amorepacific tacking on 1%

On the data front, Singapore’s economy grew 8.8% in the quarter ending in September compared to the quarter before due to strength in the manufacturing sector. That was above the 2.2% increase seen in the second quarter and the 7.4% growth projected by experts.

Against the Japanese yen, the U.S. dollar traded at 111.24, weaker than the 112 level fetched at the beginning of the week and a touch firmer than Wednesday's close of 111.17.

Japanese steelmaker JFE Holdings and India's JSW Steel intend to bid for Bhushan Steel, which went into bankruptcy protection earlier this year, Reuters reported, citing sources.

Australian retailers were also in focus following media reports about e-commerce giant Amazon's soft launch in the country on Thursday. While the news has yet to be officially confirmed, some Australian retailers were informed by Amazon about an "internal testing phase" starting today. Retail stocks were mixed: Harvey Norman was off 0.3% and Woolworths was higher by 0.3%

Australian markets tailed off slightly. The energy and materials sub-indexes led gains in the broader market after commodity prices strengthened overnight. Those gains, however, were offset by losses in the utilities and consumer discretionary sub-indexes.

CHINA

Chinese stocks fell on Thursday.

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 slumped 125.17 points, or 3%, to 4,102.40, with the technology, consumer non-cyclical and health-care sectors recording the steepest losses on the day.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index dropped 3.36 points, or 0.1%, to 2,537.15

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index gained 31.98 points, or 0.3%, to 10,854.57

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index moved lower 6.85 points, or 0.2%, to 3,423.17

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 fell 3.04 points to 8,101.95

In Australia, the ASX 200 removed 0.22 points to 5,986.20