Some Asian Markets Recover, Japan Slump Continues

Most Asian indexes closed lower on Wednesday, despite earlier shrugging off the declines seen on Wall Street overnight.

The Nikkei 225 average in Japan sank 193.68 points, or 0.8%, to 23,098.29, as automakers, financials and trading houses saw losses.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong recovered 279.98 points, or 0.9%, to 32,887.27

Among index heavyweights, Fanuc Manufacturing closed lower by 0.7% Toyota fell 2% and Fast Retailing gained 0.7%.

The technology sector was mixed, with Sony adding 0.5% and SoftBank lower by 0.7% by the end of the day.

Shares of Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance closed down 2.5% and 1.1%, respectively. The companies said in a statement that they would be establishing a private equity fund management company. That company, called Japan Post Investment Corporation, will have an initial fund of as much as 120 billion yen ($1.1 billion U.S.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar traded softer against the yen at 108.70.

In Hong Kong, financial stocks mostly higher after recording losses in the last session. HSBC closed higher by 0.1%, China Construction Bank rose 1.8% and AIA advanced 0.6%. Property names closed mixed, while energy-related names came under pressure, with CNOOC falling 1.1% on the day.

Shares of Samsung Electronics rose more than 5% following an announcement of a 50:1 stock split, but later closed just 0.2% higher. The reason for the decision was "based on the view that a high share price was a hindrance to potential investors," the company said in a statement.

Samsung had earlier announced a record fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, in line with what it had forecast earlier this month. Profit for the period rose 64.3% compared to one year ago to 15.2 trillion won ($14.15 billion U.S.). Other tech names were mixed: SK Hynix gained 0.6% and LG Display slid 1.1%

Financials traded lower for the most part, as did energy-related stocks. Manufacturing names finished mixed, with steelmaker Posco advancing by 0.3%

Down Under, markets enjoyed broad-based gains, with the exception of the energy and materials space. Declines seen in the energy sector came as oil prices continued to decline. Santos fell 1.2% and Beach Energy tumbled 4.1% by the end of the session.

The heavily weighted financials sub-index reversed early losses to edge up by 0.1%

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 regained 19.8 points, or 0.5%, to 4,275.90

Elsewhere, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group informed creditors it could have a first-quarter cash shortfall of a minimum of 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion U.S.) According to the news agency, the company said it was certain it could manage the issue.

Official data released earlier showed factory activity expanded less than expected in January: China's manufacturing PMI came in at 51.3, missing the 51.5 figure forecast

In other markets

The Kospi in Korea dropped 1.28 points, or 0.1%, to 2,566.46

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index regrouped 27.01 points, or 0.2%, to 11,103.79

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slumped 14.75 points, or 0.4%, to 3,533.99

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 recouped 143.43 points, or 1.7%, to 8,442.01

The ASX gained 14.89 points, or 0.3%, to 6,037.68