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Asian stocks hurt by lower oil prices, rate hike speculation

Asian stocks outside Japan declined on Thursday, as weaker oil prices and expectations of a U.S. rate hike in September curbed risk appetite.

"With the September FOMC meeting now firmly in the market's sights, there seems a newfound belief that the Fed's mindset has shifted to one of 'We are moving in September, give us a reason why we shouldn't'," IG market strategist Chris Westoon wrote in a note. "Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell took his turn to speak on policy overnight in what was a largely unscheduled speech and, despite sounding a touch more cautious, Dennis Lockhart kept the rate hike momentum going."

Even a mildly positive handover from Wall Street didn't help sentiment; the S&P 500 and broke a three-day losing streak, while the inched down amid disappointment from Disney's earnings.

Mainland markets lower

China's Shanghai Composite index closed down 0.9 percent in subdued trade. Among other indexes, the CSI300 index sagged 0.9 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite slipped 0.7 percent.

Among laggards, oil-related counters such as PetroChina and Sinopec receded more than 1 percent each due to weaker energy prices.

Everbright Securities, one of the largest securities brokerages, closed down 4.6 percent despite announcing a near ten-fold increase in its first-half profit.

In Hong Kong, the index tracked its mainland peers to head down 0.6 percent.

Wison Engineering Services – a supplier to PetroChina – notched down 0.6 percent following news that it has been found guilty of bribery after an investigation by the Chinese government and ordered to pay a fine of 30 million yuan.

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ASX loses 1.1%

Heavy selling in the shares of the country's major lenders sent Australia's S&P ASX 200 index down by its biggest one-day drop since July 22, eclipsing data that showed the economy added 38,500 new jobs in July, well above Reuters' expectations for 10,000 jobs.

Following the upbeat data, the Australian dollar ticked up briefly to $0.7373 against the greenback, but soon fell back to $0.7335 after markets digested news that the country's unemployment rate rose to a six-month high in July.

Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank slumped between 2.2 and 3.2 percent, following news that Australia and New Zealand Banking Group will be raising $2.2 billion through a share placement.

With energy prices hovering at multi-month lows, Santos and Woodside Petroleum lost 2.5 and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto drifted 1.1 percent higher ahead of its first-half earnings report, which is expected after the market close.


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