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Major Asian markets end mixed amid uncertainty over US-China trade talks

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia were mixed, with stocks straddling between negative and positive territory for most of the day.
  • On Wall Street, stocks dropped to their lows of the day following a Financial Times story which said the U.S. had canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. The report was later confirmed by a source familiar with the situation to CNBC's Kayla Tausche.
  • However, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied the report, telling CNBC that "there was never a planned meeting" other than the scheduled visit by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He next week.

Major stock markets in Asia ended mixed on Wednesday amid concerns over the state of ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations, after reports emerged that the White House canceled a trade planning meeting with Beijing this week.

The mainland Chinese markets, closely watched in relation to the trade war between Beijing and Washington, saw early gains but eventually lost steam. The Shanghai composite and Shenzhen component both saw slight gains to close at about 2,581.00 and 7,523.77, respectively. The Shenzhen composite rose 0.129 percent to finish its trading day at around 1,316.28.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index saw fractional losses, as of its final hour of trade.

Officials from the Chinese finance ministry said Wednesday that Beijing will boost fiscal expenditure in 2019 to bolster the country's economy.

China delivered about 1.3 trillion yuan of cuts in taxes and fees in 2018, in a bid to stem a slowdown in the country's economic growth as the country was embroiled in a trade fight with Washington.

Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.14 percent to close at 20,593.72 while the Topix index declined 0.60 percent to end its trading day at 1,547.03. Shares of Apple supplier Japan Display soared 18.75 percent, following a report that the company was looking for a bailout after disappointing sales of the iPhone XR. Japan Display supplies the liquid crystal display screens used in the iPhone XR.

Meanwhile, Japanese automaker Subaru saw its stock drop 3.44 percent. The stock moves came after Subaru announced it had halted production at its car factory in Japan due to a defective part.

Japan's central bank kept interest rates steady, as expected. The Bank of Japan also left its forward guidance, a move taken in July to keep interest rates extremely low for an extended period, unchanged.

South Korea's Kospi gained 0.47 percent to close at 2,127.78.

In Australia, the slipped 0.26 percent to finish its trading day at 5,843.70. The energy sector declined by 1.53 percent as oil stocks mostly fell on the back of Tuesday's drop in crude prices. Santos dropped 1.49 percent, Oil Search declined 1.06 percent and Woodside Petroleum fell 1.34 percent.

Oil prices attempted to stage a partial recovery on Wednesday following the losses in the previous session, with international benchmark Brent crude futures rising 0.52 percent to $61.82 per barrel and the U.S. crude futures contract advancing 0.43 percent to $53.24.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

US-China trade truce

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a four-day winning streak as it fell 301.87 points to close at 24,404.48. The shed 1.4 percent to finish its trading day at 2,632.90 while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 1.9 percent to close at 7,020.36.

Stocks stateside dropped to their lows of the day following a Financial Times story which said the U.S. had canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. The report was later confirmed by a source familiar with the situation to CNBC's Kayla Tausche.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, however, denied that report, telling CNBC that "there was never a planned meeting" other than the scheduled visit by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He next week.

"I think both sides have lots of incentives to try to deliver a mutually agreeable win but the difficulty will be whether China can move enough to satisfy the structural demands that have been placed upon China by the U.S. negotiating team," Nelson Dong, senior partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

The U.S. and China are aiming to strike a deal to break their trade impasse before March 1. The two economic powerhouses have been locked in an ongoing trade war since 2018 which has seen both sides slap billions of dollars worth of tariffs on each other's goods.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.298 after touching an earlier session high of 96.344.

The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 109.62 against the greenback after after touching a high of 109.31 earlier. The Australian dollar was at $0.7135 after seeing an earlier low of $0.7114.

— Reuters contributed to this report.