Asian shares retreat as China, US begin trade negotiations

By ANNABELLE LIANGEnergyAssociated Press

Asian stocks were mostly lower on Thursday as China and the U.S. kicked off two days of trade negotiations in Beijing. Regional indexes have advanced for three straight days on hopes that both sides will make headway on big issues like Beijing's technology policy.

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 0.7 percent to 28,305.33. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 6,060.50 and the Kospi in South Korea lost 0.5 percent to 2,191.42. The Shanghai Composite index eased 0.4 percent to 2,709.73.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent to 21,155.44 after preliminary data showed that its economy had expanded by 1.4 percent in 2018's fourth quarter, helped by strong domestic demand. This was a vast improvement from a broad contraction in the previous quarter. Shares rose in Taiwan and the Philippines but fell in Singapore.

"For Asia markets, the exhaustion of the positive sentiment that powered U.S. markets overnight looks to invite the region to tread water in the session," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

News that Chinese and American officials planned to hold further talks in Beijing has fueled trading in Asia and beyond. A tariffs truce, which was put in place by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump in December, will expire soon. On March 2, the U.S. is expected to more than double import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

Trump has hinted that he might hold off on these tariffs if enough progress was made at the talks. On Wednesday, he told reporters that discussions were "going along very well".

Traders are also waiting for Chinese trade data that will be released later in the day. A decline in the country's exports or imports could cement worries that the world's no. 2 economy was slowing.

WALL STREET: U.S stocks edged higher Wednesday on hopes that negotiators will come close to a deal after trade talks. Energy companies, retailers and industrial stocks climbed. The S&P 500 added 0.3 percent to 2,753.03 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5 percent at 25,543.27. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 percent to 7,420.38. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained 0.3 percent to 1,542.94.

ENERGY: U.S. crude rose 15 cents to $54.05 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 80 cents to settle at $53.90 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 16 cents to $63.77 per barrel. It added $1.19 close at $63.61 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 110.97 yen from 110.98 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1277 from $1.1261.