Hong Kong shares ended flat as attention turned to the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later in the day, while traders also kept an eye on the Crimean crisis.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index edged down 14.81 points to 21,568.69 on turnover of $US64.17 billion ($A70.54 billion).
Tensions in Eastern Europe rose on Tuesday when President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty absorbing Crimea into Russia following a weekend referendum Western leaders slammed as illegal.
The move comes less than three weeks after Russian troops seized control of the strategic peninsula in response to the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government.
Kiev’s new leaders warned the showdown had entered a “military stage” after soldiers were killed on both sides following a shootout in Crimea.
However, National Australian Bank said: “Putin indicated he isn’t seeking ‘a partition of Ukraine’, soothing market fears (for now) that the crisis will escalate further. It gave investors the chance to start focusing on the (Fed) meeting tonight.”
The Fed will conclude its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday with analysts expecting a further cut in the bank’s stimulus program as the economy picks up.
But attention will be on new chair Janet Yellen’s follow-up news conference, hoping she will give some idea about the bank’s plans for raising interest rates as the economy shows signs of strengthening.
Internet giant Tencent fell 1.82 per cent to HK$567.50 and HSBC was 0.45 per cent lower at HK$76.8 while Macau casino firm Galaxy Entertainment slipped 2.83 per cent to HK$72.00.
However, US luggage maker Samsonite surged 9.42 per cent to HK$22.65 after announcing net profits leapt 18.6 per cent in 2013 thanks to strong worldwide sales.
In China the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.17 per cent, or 3.47 points, to 2,021.73 on turnover of 79.5 billion yuan ($A14.07 billion).
The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, fell 0.50 per cent, or 5.46 points, to 1,094.44 on turnover of 111.5 billion yuan.
Property and banking shares fell on concerns about bad debt after reports surfaced Tuesday that Xingrun Real Estate, a small developer in the eastern city of Ningbo, was unable to pay its debts of around $570 million.
“Banks and property stocks fell after news of the Ningbo developer on worries this could cause losses to lenders and signal a transition in the real estate sector,” Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told AFP.
China Minsheng Banking lost 2.03 per cent to 7.23 yuan while China Citic Bank shed 1.29 per cent to 4.60 yuan.
Poly Real Estate dropped 1.60 per cent to 6.77 yuan and developer Vanke fell 1.32 per cent to 7.50 yuan.
Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing said: “Funds are fleeing from banks and property stocks on fears that more developers could declare delinquencies.”
And Capital Securities analyst Amy Lin said that in addition to the Xingrun default “reports housing prices are diving in major cities are spreading through the internet, which has severely weighed down sentiment”.
Hopes of benefits from electricity price reform lifted power firms. Leshan Electricity jumped 1.9 per cent to 7.40 yuan and Shanxi Zhangze Electric Power gained 1.7 per cent to 3.66 yuan.