Asia Markets

Asia markets close mixed amid simmering trade concerns

Key Points
  • Asian markets closed mixed as an overnight bounce on Wall Street stalled.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative's office published its proposed list of Chinese imports that could be hit with tariffs.
  • China responded that it would "fight back" against those trade measures.
  • The dollar pared some of its overnight gains against the yen, but held above 106.

Asian stocks closed mixed on Wednesday as the overnight bounce on Wall Street stalled. Recent concerns over trade tensions also persisted amid new China-U.S. trade developments.

Japan's closed higher by 0.13 percent, or 27.26 points, at 21,319.55 amid choppy trade. The broader Topix edged up by 0.14 percent. Automakers were higher on the back of strong U.S. auto sales reported overnight, with Toyota edging up by 0.13 percent, while bank stocks came under pressure.

Elsewhere, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index lost 1.41 percent to close at 2,408.06, weighed down by declines in the technology sector as index bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 2.49 percent.

Steelmakers were also mostly lower, with Posco sliding 2.31 percent.

Greater China markets were in negative territory after trading higher earlier in the session. Hong Kong's gave up early gains to sink 1.45 percent by 3:13 p.m. HK/SIN. Slight gains in consumer goods, seen as a defensive sector, were offset by losses in technology stocks, industrials and financials.

Blue chips posted declines ahead of the market close: Heavyweight Tencent was down 2.1 percent by 3:17 p.m. HK/SIN and HSBC slid 0.82 percent.

Mainland stock indexes also reversed early gains: The slipped 0.15 percent to finish at 3,131.84 and the smaller Shenzhen composite shed 0.57 percent to close at 1,831.70.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 inched higher by 0.17 percent to end at 5,761.40 after hovering around the flat line earlier.

MSCI's broad index of stocks in Asia Pacific excluding Japan declined 0.69 percent by 3:15 p.m. HK/SIN. That came after U.S. stocks rose in the last session on gains in technology stocks, which had fallen sharply on Monday.

China-US trade tensions

The declines on Wednesday came as trade tensions, which have recently been in the spotlight, continued to simmer: The U.S. Trade Representative's office published its proposed list of around 1,300 Chinese imports that could be hit with tariffs.

In response, China said via an embassy statement it opposed the additional tariffs proposed and that "it is only polite to reciprocate," Reuters reported. China's ambassador to the U.S. also told CNBC on Wednesday that his country would "fight back" against the latest measures.

"This trade tension story is the biggest uncertainty for China from the external perspective and the story is developing every day," Haibin Zhu, chief China economist at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"Trade war, or the tariffs, are never a zero sum game. It's actually a lose-lose situation. China will probably lose more, but the U.S. will also suffer," he added.

Markets have been on edge about U.S. tariffs triggering retaliatory actions from U.S. trading partners and potentially causing a trade war that would dent global growth.

The dollar held above 106 yen, although the greenback was slightly softer compared to levels around the 106.6 handle seen in the last session. The dollar traded at 106.56 yen by 3:06 p.m. HK/SIN.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six currencies, stood at 90.185.

In corporate news, Elliott Advisors, an arm of activist hedge fund Elliott Management, said it had a stake worth more than $1 billion in three affiliates of Hyundai Motor Group. Reuters reported that Elliott was pushing for corporate governance improvement.

Shares of Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis and Kia Motors rose 2.96 percent, 3.52 percent and 2.52 percent, respectively.