Asian shares track weakness on Wall St; China shares higher

Shares were lower in early Asian trading Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where the Dow industrial average ended almost flat after backtracking from a broad rally earlier in the day.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to 23,851.20 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2 percent to 31,853.70. The Kospi in South Korea shed 0.3 percent to 2,513.40 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.4 percent to 6,022.30. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.4 percent to 3,451.61 and shares in Southeast Asia were mostly lower.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "U.S. equity markets flip flopped returning from the Martin Luther King Day holiday and coupled with the softer oil prices, set Asian markets for a day of contemplation," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

JAPAN MACHINERY: Orders for machinery were the highest in almost a decade in November, rising nearly 12 percent from a month earlier, the government reported Wednesday. The strong demand suggests companies are investing to expand production capacity that likely would support growth in coming months, analysts said.

WALL STREET BOUNCE: Losses by industrial and technology companies helped pull shares back from their latest record highs. The slide erased some of the gains from a broad rally earlier Tuesday that had pushed the Dow Jones industrial average past the 26,000-point threshold for the first time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4 percent to 2,776.42. The Dow lost 0.04 percent to 25,792.86 and the Nasdaq shed 0.5 percent to 7,223.69. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 1.2 percent to 1,572.97.

BITCOIN: The price of bitcoin extended its slump, triggered by comments by a South Korean financial policymaker who said that banning trading in digital currencies was an option. The price of one bitcoin was down 1.6 percent at $11,156.53 as of 0240 GMT Wednesday according to the tracking site CoinDesk. Bitcoin futures on the Cboe Futures Exchange were up 1.67 percent at $11,240. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The price of bitcoin soared last year after starting 2017 under $1,000, but has languished this year amid signs of increased scrutiny from governments. Many finance pros believe bitcoin is in a speculative bubble that could burst any time.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 15 cents to $63.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 57 cents to $63.73 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 10 cents to $69.25.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.64 yen from 110.49 yen on Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.2281 from $1.2258.