Asian Shares Fall On Fresh Trade Worries

Asian stock markets fell on Wednesday as risk appetite waned after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened higher tariffs on Chinese goods if a trade deal is not reached between the two countries.

Hopes for a trade deal further dimmed after the U.S. Senate passed legislation supporting protesters in Hong Kong. China has condemned the U.S. Senate measure.

Chinese shares closed lower amid rising U.S.-China tensions. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 22.94 points or 0.8 percent to finish at 2,911.05.

Hong Kong shares fell for the first time in three days. The Hang Seng Index tumbled 204.19 points or 0.8 percent to close at 26,889.61.

The Japanese market extended losses from the previous session and the safe-haven yen strengthened on fresh worries about a U.S.-China trade deal. Data showing Japan's merchandise trade surplus for October missed expectations also dampened sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index fell 144.08 points or 0.6 percent to close at 23,148.57 and the broader Topix index dropped 5.62 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 1,691.11.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group and Fast Retailing declined 1.2 percent each.

The major exporters fell on a stronger yen. Sony lost 0.9 percent, Canon is dipped 1.3 percent, Mitsubishi Electric dropped 0.6 percent and Panasonic edged down less than 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Tokyo Electron slipped 1.6 percent and Advantest fell 2.7 percent. Among auto stocks, Toyota Motor declined 0.9 and Honda Motor dropped 1.3 percent.

Among the major gainers, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma gained 6.9 percent, Rakuten rose 2.6 percent and M3 added 2.5 percent.

On the flip side, Nippon Yusen KK lost 4.2 percent, T&D Holdings dropped 4 percent and JGC Holdings fell 3.7 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 17.3 billion yen in October. That was well shy of expectations for a surplus of 301.0 billion yen following the 124.8 billion yen deficit in September.

Exports fell 9.2 percent on year, missing forecasts for a drop of 7.5 percent following the 5.2 percent decline in the previous month. Imports were down an annual 14.8 percent versus expectations for a drop of 15.4 percent after dipping 1.5 percent a month earlier.

The Australian market closed notably lower, recording its worst day in nearly seven weeks amid fresh uncertainty about a U.S.-China trade deal and reflecting sharp losses in the banking sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 91.80 points or 1.4 percent to close at 6,722.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index lost 85.80 points or 1.2 percent to settle at 6,828.30.

In the banking space, Westpac's shares fell 3.3 percent after AUSTRAC, Australia's financial intelligence agency, accused the lender of breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing 23 million times.

ANZ Banking declined 2.1 percent, Commonwealth Bank dipped 1.3 percent and National Australia Bank lost 3.1 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP declined 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto fell 0.8 percent, while Fortescue Metals added 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks fell as crude oil prices tumbled overnight. Oil Search declined 1.8 percent, while Santos dropped 1.5 percent and Woodside Petroleum lost 1.3 percent.

Origin Energy raised the full-year production outlook for its Australia Pacific LNG project. However, the company's shares dipped 0.6 percent.

Aristocrat Leisure reported a 29 percent increase in full-year profit and said it will pay a higher fully franked final dividend. The gambling giant's shares gained 6 percent.

Lifescience and industrial testing company ALS gained 12.1 percent after reporting a 5.3 percent increase in its half-year profit.

Meanwhile, Saracen Mineral Holdings' shares fell 10.6 percent after coming out of a trading halt following a A$701 million capital raising to fund its acquisition of a 50 percent stake in the Super Pit goldmine in Western Australia.

On the economic front, Australia's leading index rose moderately in October, but it remained below trend suggesting weak economic momentum carrying well into 2020, Westpac reported Wednesday.

The six-month annualized growth rate in the Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity relative to trend three to nine months into the future, increased to -0.91 percent in October from -1.01 percent in September.

Seoul stocks fell for the third straight day amid fresh worries about a U.S.-China trade deal. The benchmark Kospi lost 27.92 points or 1.3 percent to settle at 2,125.32.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 2.8 percent and chipmaker SK hynix dropped 3.1 percent. Automaker Hyundai Motor edged down 0.4 percent.

Indonesia and Malaysia are down with modest losses.

Bucking the trend, New Zealand shares extended gains to a second session. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 83.25 points or 0.8 percent to finish at 10,975.49.

Shares of retirement village operator Metlifecare jumped 12.8 percent after the company said it has received a takeover bid from a credible buyer and also announced the suspension of its share buyback program.

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