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Asian shares mostly lower as investors watch trade talks

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly lower Friday after a slide on Wall Street as nervous investors eyed U.S.-China trade talks in Washington.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.3 per cent to 21,402.57 in morning trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 per cent to 6,165.00. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.4 per cent to 2,220.23, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.3 per cent to 28,545.23. The Shanghai Composite was flat at 2,752.62.

Health care and energy companies led U.S. stocks lower. The S&P 500, which has risen for the past three weeks, fell 0.4 per cent to 2,774.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also lost 0.4 per cent, to 25,850.63. The Nasdaq composite declined 0.4 per cent to 7,459.71 while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.4 per cent to 1,575.55.

A hodge-podge of recent economic data is fueling concerns over risks to global growth. The U.S. Labor Department said fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected, an encouraging sign. But investors are cautious about business conditions going forward as signs of weakness in the global economy emerge. The long-running, costly trade dispute between the U.S. and China has also clouded the outlook.

The world’s two biggest economies are locked in a trade war spurred by U.S. contentions that China uses predatory tactics in a quest to overtake U.S. technological dominance, including pressuring American companies to hand over trade secrets and in some cases stealing them outright.

The Trump administration has warned it will increase its import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent if the two sides haven’t reached a resolution by March 2. But Trump in recent days has signalled a willingness to extend the deadline if negotiators are making progress.

“The trade talks do appear to have made some progress, however, but a run of weak data from Japan, Europe and the U.S. yesterday took the wind out of the equity market sails,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 10 cents to $56.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It slid 0.3 per cent to settle at $56.96 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 18 cents to $66.89 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.78 yen from 110.70 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1335 from $1.1338.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press