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Asia-Pacific stocks mostly decline; South Korea hikes interest rates

SINGAPORE — Chinese stocks were subdued in early trade on Thursday, as U.S. markets again surged to record highs. Meanwhile, South Korea’s central bank hiked interest rates.

China’s Shanghai composite fell 0.25%, while the Shenzhen component was down 0.55%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged down 0.12%.

South Korea’s central bank raised interest rates, a decision expected by analysts. That made it the first developed economy to do so in the pandemic era.

The Bank of Korea raised its rate by 25 basis points to 0.75%.

“The virus situation in Korea has deteriorated since the central bank’s July meeting, when it gave strong signals that tightening was imminent,” Capital Economics wrote in a note before the announcement.

“However, the economy has become increasingly resilient to outbreaks, as businesses have learned to live with the virus,” it said, adding that surging household debt and rising home prices are adding to financial stability issues.

South Korea’s Kospi initially fell after the rate announcement, but was last trading flat. The Korean won strengthened slightly.

In other markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose marginally, while the Topix traded below the flatline.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.39%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.12%.

U.S. stocks climbed again overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.24 points, or 0.1%, to 35,405.50. The S&P 500 added 0.2% to a new closing high of 4,496.19. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.1% to 15,041.86, also a new closing high.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, dropped to 92.856, off levels above 93 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.01, weakening from the 109 level in recent days. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7263, a touch stronger than levels above $0.725 earlier this week.

Oil prices fell in the morning of Asia hours. International benchmark Brent crude futures declined 0.53% to $71.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures fell 0.70% to $67.88.

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