Asia Edges Lower after U.S. Tax Bill Passes

Asian indexes lost ground on Thursday after U.S. stocks closed mostly flat following the passage of a comprehensive tax bill stateside. Greater China stocks, however, proved to be a bright spot in the region, with major indexes closing higher.

The Nikkei 225 erased 25.62 points, or 0.1%, to 22,866.10, after the Bank of Japan's held monetary policy steady, a move widely expected by markets. The central bank noted that the Japanese economy was "expanding moderately" in a release. While price rises remain significantly below the BOJ's 2% target, it noted that inflation was expected to "continue on an uptrend."

Against the yen, the U.S. dollar edged up to trade at 113.46 after touching its highest levels in a week in the last session.

The Hang Seng Index gained 132.97 points, or 0.5%, to 29,367.06,

Korea markets sagged as tech blue-chips dragged the index lower, with Samsung Electronics falling 3.4% and SK Hynix losing 3.9% by the end of the day.

Investors monitored stocks that have proven sensitive to tensions between China and South Korea — the so-called THAAD-related names — following news that Beijing rejected visa applications for a mainland tour group intending to visit South Korea. Lotte Shopping shed 0.8%, Hotel Shilla tumbled 2.6% and Korean Air Lines closed 3% lower.

China routinely tries to punish Seoul for behavior it doesn't like by restricting companies from South Korea.

Australian markets faltered, with declines in heavily-weighted banking names outpacing gains seen among companies in the natural resources industries. The real estate investment trust sub-indexes fell 1.3% leading losses on the broader index.

ANZ Bank New Zealand said HNA Group's application to buy its UDC Finance unit was rejected by regulators. ANZ said the agreement between the companies remained, although "unless HNA successfully overturns the decision, the sale will not proceed." ANZ shares closed lower by 0.6%

Elsewhere, Fosun International announced Wednesday it would be buying most of Asahi Group Holding's stake in Tsingtao Brewery. In a statement, Fosun said it had agreed to buy 243 million H-shares, around 18% of Tsingtao's total issued shares, for HK$6.6 billion ($844 million U.S.). The sale price of HK$27.22 per share is at a discount to Tsingtao's Wednesday closing price of HK$40.

Following the news, Fosun International shares jumped 7.6% and Tsingtao's Hong Kong-listed shares fell 5.4%. Asahi Group closed firmer by 0.7%


In Shanghai, the CSI 300 gained 37.36 points, or 0.9%, to 4,067.85

The move higher came after Chinese leaders attending a key annual economic conference said China would continue its pursuit of structural reform in the year ahead, according to state news agency Xinhua. The country will also prioritize "quality" growth instead of focusing on just the pace of growth, Xinhua said, citing an official statement.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index fell 42.54 points, or 1.7%, to 2,429.83

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index slid 15.55 points, or 0.2%, to 10,488.97

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slumped 12.34 points, or 0.4%, to 3,382.53

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 deleted 19.12 points, or 0.2%, to 8,364.44

In Australia, the ASX 200 dropped 15.26 points, or 0.3%, to 6,060.36