HONG KONG - Asian stocks closed mostly down Wednesday as India and Malaysia hiked fuel prices amid an OECD warning that sharply higher inflation posed a risk to regional economic growth.
India's stock market fell nearly three percent after its government hiked subsidized fuel prices to stem huge losses at state oil firms struggling to cope with surging crude costs, raising the prospect of a voter backlash.
Petrol prices were increased by 11 percent or five rupees (12 cents) and diesel by 9.4 percent based on pump prices in the capital, New Delhi.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia's petrol price would rise 40 percent to 2.70 ringgit (0.84 dollars) a liter from Thursday as controls are removed under a revamped subsidy system.
Malaysia, whose stock market closed 0.4 percent lower, is moving to cut the spiraling bill for its extensive energy subsidies, which are expected to cost 56 billion ringgit this year.
Meanwhile, the OECD said Wednesday that China and India were set for slower though robust economic growth in 2008 but that sharply higher inflation loomed as a key threat amid soaring global food and oil prices.
China will grow 10 percent against 11.9 percent in 2007 as exports slip amid a world slowdown and anemic US expansion, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecast in its biannual Economic Outlook.
India's expansion will fall to 7.8 percent in 2008 from 8.7 percent the previous year, partly due to higher interest rates, it said.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong closed down over one percent while China slipped nearly two percent, with concerns about telecoms industry restructuring affecting both markets.
Australian shares ended mixed even though the government said economic growth in the first quarter came in at an annual rate of 3.6 percent, above expectations.
But the Japanese market rose by 1.59 percent, with automakers lifted by the weaker yen and data showing brisk car sales in the US in May. Taiwan and South Korea also ended higher, but Singapore fell back.
TOKYO: Japanese share prices closed 1.59 percent higher, boosted by a weaker yen which is good for the earnings of automakers and other exporters, dealers said.
The benchmark Nikkei-225 index gained 226.40 points to end at 14,435.57, recovering most of the previous day's losses. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares added 23.03 points or 1.64 percent to 1,430.47.
The greenback gained after comments by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke seen as supportive of the dollar.
"It doesn't mean that fears about inflationary risks have disappeared, but Bernanke's comments have given relief to the market," Masaru Ohnishi, market strategist at JPMorgan, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Honda Motor rose 8.6 percent to 3,790 yen and Mazda Motor leapt 9.1 percent to 598 yen. Toyota Motor climbed 3.1 percent to 5,570 yen and Nissan Motor advanced 5.3 percent to 974 yen.
Fast Retailing soared 11.3 percent to 9,860 yen after reporting a rise in sales.
HONG KONG: Hong Kong share prices closed down 1.04 percent, dealers said.
The Hang Seng Index was down 252.51 points at 24,123.25. Turnover was 78.92 billion Hong Kong dollars (10.12 billion US)
China Unicom was down 4.28 percent, China Mobile fell 1.22 percent and China Netcom was down 3.39 percent, following tumbles on Tuesday as uncertainty about the mainland's telecoms industry restructuring plans lingered.
"We are cautious about the US market's performance in June, with investors turning their focus back onto weak economic data and the credit crisis," ICEA Securities strategist Ernie Hon told Dow Jones Newswires.
China Merchants fell 1.4 percent after it disclosed Monday its acquisition of a 53 percent stake in Wing Lung Bank.
China Shenhua, the country's largest coal producer by output, fell 4.9 percent. HSBC fell 0.23 percent to 130.10 and Hutchison Whampoa dropped 0.59 percent at 84.00.
SYDNEY: Australian shares closed mixed, dealers said.
The benchmark SP/ASX200 index gained 10.3 points to close up 0.2 percent at 5,584.5 while the broader All Ordinaries slipped 4.8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,698.2.
Turnover was 2.1 billion shares worth 6.1 billion dollars (5.9 billion US).
Dealers said concerns about the US remained.
"I think people are a bit scared about Lehman," Aequs senior institutional trader Ric Klusman told Dow Jones Newswires.
Media reports have said Lehman Brothers may seek to raise fresh capital in the wake of the subprime crisis.
Australia posted better-than-expected domestic GDP figures showing 3.6 percent annual growth in the first quarter.
Westpac climbed 1.3 percent to 22.08 dollars and wealth management group AMP adding 3.01 percent to 7.52 dollars. ANZ Bank was up 0.44 percent to 20.47 dollars.
Iron ore producer Fortescue dropped 8.7 percent to 10.71. BHP Billiton lost 0.2 to 44.44 dollars and Rio Tinto gained 0.1 percent to 140.25 dollars.
SHANGHAI: Chinese share prices closed 1.93 percent lower, dealers said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, closed 66.49 points lower at 3,369.91 on turnover of 59.2 billion yuan (8.5 billion dollars).
"Early investor enthusiasm for telecom firms immediately fizzled out after the sector's overhaul was announced, reflecting the broader stock market's gloom," Wu Feng, an analyst at TX investment, told Dow Jones Newswires.
China United Telecommunications, or Unicom, tumbled 8.86 percent to 8.74 yuan, off a low of 8.70, while ZTE Corp., a major telecom equipment maker, lost 5.49 percent to 62.00 yuan.
Aluminum Corp of China, or Chalco, fell 3.13 percent to 18.60 yuan, while Jiangxi Copper lost 3.06 percent to 28.19.
China Merchants Bank tumbled 3.10 percent to 28.77 yuan and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's largest lender, fell 1.52 percent to 5.82 yuan.
But China Merchants Property Development jumped 6.49 percent to 19.70 yuan.
The Shanghai A-share Index lost 1.94 percent at 3,535.81. The Shenzhen A-share Index fell 1.3 percent at 1,071.87.
The Shanghai B-share Index lost 0.23 percent to 242.48. The Shenzhen B-share Index was down 0.17 percent at 543.85.
TAIPEI: Taiwan share prices closed 0.56 percent higher, dealers said.
The weighted index closed up 48.37 points at 8,627.80 on turnover of 85.48 billion dollars (2.81 billion US).
"Today's gains were not meaningful at all. The upside was just technical in nature after recent losses," Concord Securities analyst Allen Lin said.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was up 1.00 at 67.10 dollars and United Microelectronics Corp. was steady at 18.35.
Compal Electronics gained 0.95 to 32.50 and Hon Hai Precision was up 3.00 at 180.50. China Airlines was 0.05 higher at 15.75 and EVA Air gained 0.60 to 17.20.
SEOUL: South Korean shares closed 0.8 percent higher, dealers said.
The KOSPI index finished up 14.42 points at 1,833.81.
"The market underwent a choppy morning session but gained momentum in afternoon trade as institutions turned into net buyers," said Lim Dong-Min, an analyst at Dongbu Securities.
Samsung Electronics rose 1.28 percent to 713,000 won and steelmaker POSCO went up 0.85 percent to finish at 590,000 won. Doosan Heavy Industries climbed 0.87 percent to 116,500 won.
SINGAPORE: Singapore share prices closed 0.61 percent lower, dealers said.
The main Straits Times Index dropped 19.14 points to 3,134.80. Volume traded totalled 1.61 billion Singapore dollars (1.18 billion US).
"The market seems horribly rangebound," said a local dealer.
CapitaLand fell eight cents to 6.15 dollars. DBS rose 14 cents to 19.56. United Overseas Bank fell 24 cents to 19.66.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian share prices closed down 0.4 percent, dealers said.
The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index fell 4.45 points to 1,253.12.
"With the 1250 level violated, the market may test stronger support at the 1220 to 1230 zone in the near-term," a dealer told DowJones Newswires.
Telekom was up two sen to 3.20 ringgit. Maybank was down five sen at 7.35 ringgit. Tenaga rose 30 sen to 7.30 ringgit.
BANGKOK: Thai share prices closed 0.26 percent higher, dealers said.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index rose 2.06 points to close at 808.92, while the blue-chip SET 50 index gained 1.34 points to 578.16.
"The market rose today due mainly to a technical rebound after it fell for several days due to concerns over current Thai politics and high inflation," said Chai Chirasevenupraphand, market strategist at Capital Nomura Securities.
Anti-government protests continued for the 11th day on Wednesday, spearheaded by activists in the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy.
The same group led mass street demonstrations against premier Thaksin Shinawatra in early 2006, before his overthrow in a coup later that year.
Energy firm PTT Plc was unchanged at 322.00 baht. Bangkok Bank was unchanged at 124.00. Thai Airways International edged up 0.60 at 24.40.
JAKARTA: Indonesian shares closed 1.7 percent lower, dealers said.
The Jakarta Composite Index closed down 41.22 points at 2,362.59.
"Late panic selling on fears that stocks in the US will continue to fall also dragged down the main index," a trader said.
Bank Indonesia rate announcement is due around 0630 GMT Thursday.
Coal miner Bumi fell four percent to 7,250 rupiah. Bank Rakyat dropped 4.2 percent to 5,750.
MANILA: Philippine share prices closed down 0.3 percent, dealers said.
The composite index lost 9.68 points to 2,773.12. The all share index lost 1.82 points to 1,723.91.
"The market is trading cautiously and some investors are reducing positions ahead of tomorrow's inflation figures and central bank meeting," analyst Lawrence de Leon of Accord Capital Equities told AFP.
"There is some reduction of positions of investors and (they are) trading cautiously on expectations that inflation will not be encouraging," he said.
Ayala Corp. fell 2.2 percent to 327.50 pesos. Ayala Land rose 2.4 percent to 10.50 pesos. Philippine Long Distance Telephone fell 0.4 percent to 2,560 pesos. San Miguel A and B shares were unchanged at 41 and 42 pesos.
WELLINGTON: New Zealand share prices closed up 0.50 percent, dealers said.
The NZX-50 gross index rose 17.64 points to 3,557.69.
ASB Securities adviser Stephen Wright said there was relief that Tuesday's dismal trading did not carry over into a second day.
Telecom rose 11 cents to 3.93 dollars. Fletcher Building fell four cents to 7.66 dollars. Contact Energy dropped 10 cents to 9.05.
MUMBAI: Indian share prices fell 2.81 percent, dealers said.
The benchmark Mumbai 30-share Sensex fell 447.77 points to 15,514.79.
"There is very little good news ahead. Corporate earnings may be revised lower, amid rising inflation and commodity prices," said R. Balakrishnan, at Centrum Broking.
Petrol prices were increased by 11 percent or five rupees (12 cents) and diesel by 9.4 percent or three rupees based on pump prices in New Delhi.
HANOI: Vietnam's official stock market index fell below the 400-point benchmark, down some two thirds from its peak, dealers said.
The VN Index at the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HOSE) dropped by 5.54 points to close at 395.66. In March last year, the index hit a record high of 1,170 points.
"I think the market should probably bottom out in the next two months," said Fiachra Mac Cana, managing director of VinaSecurities Joint Stock Company.
The Vietnam stock market has experienced upheaval since around October 2007 despite the communist government's efforts to keep it on track.
The country is battling soaring inflation which reportedly has triggered labor unrest.