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Nikkei leads declines in Asia; China inflation data eyed

See Kit Tang

Asian stocks stumbled early Wednesday, tracking declines on Wall Street overnight while awaiting crucial inflation data due out of China at 9.30am local time.

The raft of consumer price data follows official data released on Tuesday that showed the country's dollar-denominated imports plunged 20.4 percent in September to chalk up the 11th consecutive month of decline, while exports fell 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Major U.S. averages fell overnight, as investors weighed slight declines in oil prices and further indications of a persistent slowdown in China's economy.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) broke a seven-day winning streak by ending down 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 (CME:Index and Options Market: .INX) and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQ: .IXIC) closed down 0.7 and 0.9 percent respectively.

Nikkei loses 2%

Japan's Nikkei 225 (Nihon Kenzai Shinbun: .N225) index crashed to its lowest level since October 5, with export-oriented counters dented by renewed strength in the yen (: OSEJPY=).

Dollar-yen last traded at 119.53, as the greenback pulled back amid heightening bets that the Federal Reserve may not raise short-term interest rates until 2016.

Carmakers such as Toyota Motor (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7203.T-JP), Nissan (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7201.T-JP), Suzuki Motor (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7269.T-JP) and Honda (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7267.T-JP) declined between 1.8 and 2.7 percent, while Komatsu (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6301.T-JP) - a construction equipment maker with heavy exposure to China - slumped 3.9 percent.

Nikon (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7731.T-JP) tumbled 5.4 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that the company's April-September operating profit likely fell 27 percent to 9.5 billion yen as digital camera sales missed expectations.

Read More A rare Baer-ish call on Japanese stocks

ASX eases 0.6%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 (ASX: .AXJO) index touched a one-week low, on course to log a three-session losing streak.

Among casualties in the key resources sector, Santos (: ), Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL-AU) and Oil Search (ASX: OSH-AU) lost between 1.6 and 7.6 percent, hurt by price falls in the prior session when an International Energy Agency (IEA) report said the market would stay oversupplied for at least another year. Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG-AU) receded 2.3 percent, while bigger rivals BHP Billiton (London Stock Exchange: BLT-GB) and Rio Tinto (London Stock Exchange: RIO-GB) made losses of more than 1 percent each.

Major lenders swung back into the red following news that Westpac (ASX: WBC-AU) will raise A$3.5 billion ($2.54 billion) to meet new capital rules, while also pushing home loan rates higher by 20 basis points.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA-AU) and National Australia Bank (: ) ticked down modestly, while Australia and New Zealand Banking (ASX: ANZ-AU) dropped 0.8 percent. Trading in Westpac shares has been halted and is expected to recommence next Monday.

Bucking the downtrend, Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) surged 4.8 percent after the company said it will be enlarging its ambitions in France through the acquisition of Pizza Sprint for around A$55.2 million.

In other corporate news, Treasury Wine Estates said on Wednesday it had agreed to buy the majority of Diageo's U.S. and British wine operations for $552 million, while announcing a fully underwritten rights issue to raise around A$486 million to fund the acquisition. Shares of the wine maker are halted for trade following the announcement.

Kospi sags 0.5%

South Korea's Kospi index nursed modest losses in early trade.

Among losers were brokerages such as Daewoo Securities and Samsung Securities (Korea Stock Exchange: 1636-KR), down nearly 2 percent each.

Blue-chip stocks were mixed; Kepco and Hyundai Motor (Korea Stock Exchange: 538-KR) bounced up 3.4 and 0.3 percent respectively, while Samsung Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) edged down 0.4 percent.

STI flat

Advanced gross domestic product (GDP) showed Singapore avoiding a technical recession, with the economy growing 0.1 percent on-quarter in the third quarter, slightly beating expectations for a narrow contraction of 0.1 percent.

The Southeast Asian economy expanded 1.4 percent from the year-earlier period, also slightly better than market consensus.

However, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) still reduced the rate of appreciation for the Singapore dollar even as it maintained its policy of "modest and gradual appreciation" for the currency. The Singapore dollar climbed despite the decision, with the U.S. dollar fetching as little as 1.3932 Singapore dollars, compared with around 1.4023 Singapore dollars before the data release and the MAS announcement.

Rather than use interest rates, Singapore's central bank manages its monetary policy by adjusting an undisclosed trading band based on a basket of currencies weighted to reflect trade levels with the city-state.

The benchmark Straits Times (Singapore Exchange: .STI) index opened little changed to hover below the key psychological support level of 3,000.

— CNBC's Leslie Shaffer contributed to this market report



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