Most Asian markets rose Wednesday after a succession of losses but fears Britain will leave the European Union are keeping traders on edge, while Shanghai swung after index compiler MSCI again refused to include it in its list of key benchmarks.
Investors from the Americas to Asia have been fleeing for the exit over the past week as a succession of opinion polls put Britain's "Leave" camp in front as the June 23 vote approaches.
The prospect of one of the big three economies leaving the bloc has led to warnings of a bloodbath on global trading floors, just as dealers struggle to recover from a China-fuelled rout that wiped out trillions of dollars at the start of the year.
"We have anxiety over Britain leaving the EU," Chihiro Ohta, a senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Bloomberg News.
"We can't do anything on the issue and we just have to wait for the vote patiently."
The three main indexes in New York ended between 0.1 and 0.3 percent lower, while in Europe the selling was much heavier as traders fret over the future of the six-decade-old economic bloc -- London lost two percent and Paris 2.4 percent.
- China disappointed again -
Worries about the impact of an exit sent the yield of rock-solid 10-year German debt into negative territory for the first time in history as dealers fled to safe investments.
But most investors in Asia took the opportunity to pick up bargains on Wednesday with Tokyo up 0.7 percent by the break, Hong Kong and Seoul each 0.1 percent higher and Singapore 0.2 percent up. Sydney, however, fell 0.3 percent.
The pound edged up marginally against the dollar but was wallowing around two-month lows.
Before next week's vote, investors are keeping a close watch on central bank meetings in the United States and Japan hoping for at least some forward guidance on monetary policy, with opinion split on whether Tokyo will ramp up its stimulus programme.
Shanghai managed to tack on 0.5 percent in the morning session despite being again denied entry to MSCI's influential Emerging Markets Index, which guides the allocation of billions of dollars of investments.
The market had enjoyed a recent run of advances leading up to Tuesday's announcement in the US, but the firm said it raised concerns about transparency as well as accessibility for international dealers.
"A lot of people felt like on paper this is a done deal after all the work that the Chinese government has done to address the transparency and accessibility concerns,” Brendan Ahern, chief investment officer at KraneShares, said.
- Key figures at 0230 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 15,973.26 (break)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 2,855.77
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 20,405.74
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4135 from $1.4118
Dollar/yen: UP at 106.27 yen from 106.11 yen
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1203 from $1.1208 late Tuesday
New York - DOW: DOWN 0.3 percent at 17,674.82 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 2.0 percent at 5,923.53 points (close)