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Asia stocks mixed as RBA meeting minutes show willingness to move on interest rates

Lisa Micheal 3 Jul 15

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Tuesday, as minutes from a recent meeting by the Reserve Bank of Australia showed the central bank's willingness to move on monetary policy if necessary.

In China, the Shanghai composite slipped 0.16% to close at 2,937.62, while the Shenzhen component shed 0.28% to finish its trading day at 9,283.41. The Shenzhen composite closed just below the flatline at 1,571.81.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced about 0.1%, as of its final hour of trading.

Shares of Chinese tech heavyweight Xiaomi slipped 0.32%. The firm took a 6% stake in chip designer VeriSilicon Holdings, with the move coming amid Beijing's push for China to become more reliant in sectors such as chips. Xiaomi is set to announce quarterly earnings results in the second half of August.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan, which returned to trade after a holiday on Monday, slipped 0.69% to end its trading day at 21,535.25. The Topix index also shed 0.48% to close at 1,568.74,

South Korea's Kospi ended its trading day 0.45% higher at 2,091.87. The Korea Exchange said Tuesday it would impose a 175 million Korean won (approx. $0.149 million) fine on Bank of America Merrill Lynch's South Korean branch for irregular trading activities, Reuters reported.

Over in Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.18% to close at 6,641.00. Shares of miner Rio Tinto slipped 0.64% after the company announced a cost blowout and delay at its underground copper mine in Mongolia, along with a 3.5% drop in second-quarter iron ore shipments due to disruptions caused by a tropical cyclone earlier in the year.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index added 0.2%.

Minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) monetary policy meeting in July showed the central bank was ready to adjust interest rates if required.

"The Board would continue to monitor developments in the labour market closely and adjust monetary policy if needed to support sustainable growth in the economy and the achievement of the inflation target over time," the minutes showed. "Lower interest rates would provide more Australians with jobs and assist with achieving more assured progress towards the inflation target."

The central bank had cut the cash rate to a new all time low in July following a similar move at its previous meeting.

"We think that the RBA will take stock of the impact of the recent policy easing on the economy and leave the cash rate unchanged over the next few meetings," Gareth Aird, senior economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note. "Ultimately the RBA is not done yet in our view or as implied by market pricing."

The Australian dollar slipped 0.1% to $0.7032, but was still higher than levels below $0.692 seen last week.

Overnight on Wall Street, stocks edged upward toward new records, but remained muted amid the corporate earnings season. The outlook for this earnings season is bleak. Analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to have fallen by 3% in the second quarter, according to FactSet data.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.994 after rising from levels below 96.9 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.02 against the dollar after touching levels above 108.0 in the previous session.

Oil prices slipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down slightly to $66.43 per barrel, while U.S. crude rose 0.23% to $59.44 per barrel.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.