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Asian Stocks Fall; China Data in Focus

Asian equities were mostly lower in afternoon trade - Asian equities were mostly lower in afternoon trade on Thursday. China’s August industrial profit was in focus as data showed it slowed to a five-month low.

Industrial profits rose 9.2% in August to 519.69 billion yuan ($76 billion), data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed on Thursday, compared with the 16.2% expansion in July.

The growth was the slowest pace since March and marked the fourth straight month of slowing growth. Citing Analysts from Capital Economics, Reuters said markets had expected a 15.5% increase for August.

China’s Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Component both fell 0.5% following the release of the data, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also traded 0.5% lower by 1:45AM ET (05:45 GMT).

China’s drug and health data seller Baytacare Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd received some attention as the trading of its H shares were suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday morning.

A day ago, the Beijing Municipal Chaoyang District People’s Procuratorate approved the arrest of Wang Shaoyan, Baytacare’s former executive director and chairman of the board, on suspicion of misappropriating funds. Wang’s father, Wang Yan, was also included in the investigation.

Overnight, the Federal Open Market Committee increased the overnight funds rate to a range of 2.00% to 2.25%.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell also discussed trade related issues, adding that the Fed had heard a "rising chorus of concerns from businesses all over the country."

He also indicated there was no change in his thinking on monetary policy, although the Fed made an amendment to the statement by removing the use of “accommodative” to describe its stance on monetary policy.

There was much debate about whether removal of that key phrase was hawkish or dovish, but the Fed chief poured some cold water on the speculation.

"The change does not signal any change in the likely path of policy," Powell said at his press conference. "Instead it is a sign that policy is proceeding in line with our expectations."

Powell also noted that he doesn't see inflation surprising to the upside.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 traded 0.8% lower. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he had reached an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to open trade talks between the two nations.

In South Korea, the KOSPI advanced by 0.4% on its first trading day of the week after returning from a public holiday period.

Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.04%.

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