Asia Mostly Lower, RBA Stands Pat

Asia markets were mostly lower in afternoon trade on Tuesday, as Australia's central bank met expectations by keeping its cash rate unchanged. Trading in Asia followed a mixed overnight session in the U.S. that nevertheless saw the Dow Jones industrial average notch a record closing high.

The Nikkei 225 index’s losing trend continued with a decrease of 84.78 points, or 0.4%, to 22,622.38

The Hang Seng Index tumbled 295.48 points, or 1%, to 28,842.80

Australian markets sagged, with the heavily-weighted financial sub-index lower by 0.5%

The country's so-called Big Four banks were under pressure, with ANZ losing 1%, Commonwealth Bank down 0.2%, Westpac lower by 1.1% and the National Australia Bank declining 0.4%

The Reserve Bank of Australia kept its cash rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5% during its December policy meeting.

The move was largely in line with expectations. In a statement, RBA Governor Philip Lowe said while global economic conditions have improved over the course of the year, labor markets have tightened and wage growth remains low in many countries along with core inflation.

The statement added that the central bank expects the Australian economy to grow on average around 3% over the next few years, with an improved outlook for non-mining business investment and increased public infrastructure investment.

HSBC expects the RBA to start raising the cash rate around the middle of next year.

Among currency majors, the Japanese yen traded at 112.59 to the U.S. dollar. The Australian dollar rose to $0.7647 U.S. late Tuesday afternoon, from an earlier low of $0.7593, following the central bank's largely-expected decision to keep its cash rate on hold.

U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon officially launched its Australian operations that are expected to tighten competition in the country's retail space. But that did not stop most Australian retailers from finishing the Tuesday session higher.

Shares of department store chain Myer were up 1.3% and wholesaler Metcash gained 3%. Supermarket giant Woolworths fell 0.1%.

Meanwhile, Harvey Norman shares jumped 6.3% and JB Hi-Fi rose 6.8%

Meanwhile, Australia's seasonally adjusted retail sales for October saw a 0.5% jump according to the country's Bureau of Statistics, beating forecasts. There were increases across all industries, led by a 1.7% increment in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services.

That followed a 0.1% rise in September.

Elsewhere, the country's current account deficit decreased to 9.1 billion Australian dollars ($6.95 billion U.S.) in the September quarter.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 gained 21.31 points, or 0.5%, to 4,040.17

In Korea, the Kospi index climbed 8.45 points, or 0.3%, to 2,510.12

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index lost 84.26 points, or 0.8%, to 10,566.85

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index eased back 0.41 points to 3,438.06

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 fell 8.66 points, or 0.1%, to 8,176.21

In Australia, the ASX 200 dropped 13.77 points, or 0.2%, to 5,971.82