SINGAPORE — Declines across Asia-Pacific stocks continued on Wednesday afternoon, as Japan’s exports growth hit an eight-month low. Markets in the U.S., however, were lifted on the back of stronger-than-expected retail sales data.

Australia and South Korea led losses in the region. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 1%. Financial stocks were lower, with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia leading losses as its shares plummeted more than 8%.

News in the region may help boost sentiment, after New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced that the country’s largest city Auckland will reopen its domestic borders from Dec. 15 for fully vaccinated people and those with negative Covid test results, according to a Reuters report.

South Korea’s Kospi was down nearly 1% as well.

Mainland Chinese stocks bucked the regional trend. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.2%, while the Shenzhen Component roseb0.43%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.46%.

In earnings, Chinese tech giant Baidu is set to announce its third-quarter results later on Wednesday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.58%.

Japan’s exports fall to eight-month low; auto shares slip

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.38% after trading in positive territory earlier, while the Topix dropped 0.53%. Exports in Japan rose 9.4% in October, Reuters reported, citing data from the country’s finance ministry. That followed a 13% expansion in the previous month, and was the weakest growth since a drop in February. Auto shipments fell 36.7%.

Shares of Japanese automakers slipped. Nissan was down 1.78%, Honda dropped 1.54%, and Mitsubishi Motor fell 1.25%.

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U.S. stocks, which were in a rut in recent days after touching records earlier this month, were given a boost by retail sales data. The latest retail sales figures for October showed consumers were increasing their spending, with sales jumping 1.7% compared to a 0.8% increase in the prior month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 54.77 points, or 0.15%, to 36,142.22. The S&P 500 gained 0.39% to 4,700.90, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.76% to 15,973.86. 

“The strength in the US economic activity, combined with the above‑target inflation, might increase pressure on the [Federal Open Market Committee] to quicken the pace of its tapering of asset purchases,” the Commonwealth Bank of Australia wrote in a note on Wednesday.

Oil prices drop

U.S. WTI crude dropped 0.78% to $80.13 per barrel in the morning during Asia hours, while Brent crude fell 0.8% to $81.77.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.059, jumping from levels above 95.9 earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 114.86 per dollar, weakening from previous levels of around 114.1. The Australian dollar was at $0.7279, sliding from levels around $0.73 earlier.

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