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Asian Shares Slide On Concerns Over Trump Policy Moves


Asian stocks fell across the board on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump blocked microchip maker Broadcom Ltd's proposed takeover of Qualcomm Inc on national security grounds and fired his secretary of state, sparking fears of protectionism. There were also reports that the Trump administration is eying hefty tariffs on Chinese imports.

Chinese shares fell as worries about Trump's protectionist trade policies overshadowed encouraging industrial output data. China's industrial output climbed 7.2 percent in the January to February period from a year ago, faster than the 6.2 percent rise in December, a government report showed. That was also above the 6.6 percent increase economists had forecast.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 18.86 points or 0.57 percent to close at 3,291.38 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 149 points or 0.47 percent in late trade.

Japanese shares lost ground after four straight days of gains. The Nikkei average dropped 190.81 points or 0.87 percent to 21,777.29 as the dollar wallowed against the yen and other major currencies on speculation that geopolitical tensions may rise after Trump's decision to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. The broader Topix index declined 0.45 percent to 1,743.21.

Chip-related stocks lost ground, with Advantest, Sumco and Tokyo Electron all ending down about 2 percent.

In economic news, the value of core machine orders in Japan jumped a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent sequentially in January, the Cabinet Office said - coming in at 872.3 billion yen. The headline figure topped expectations for an increase of 5.2 percent.

Separately, minutes from the Bank of Japan's meeting on January 22-23 revealed that board members expect the country's economic growth to continue at a satisfactory rate.

Australian shares fell sharply, led down by banks as a powerful judicial inquiry into the scandal-ridden banking sector began and another senior official left the Trump administration.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 39.40 points or 0.66 percent to 5,935.30 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 34.50 points or 0.57 percent at 6,042.60.

The big four banks fell between half a percent and 1.2 percent. Miners ended mixed while energy majors Beach Energy and Santos ended down 0.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. Healthcare giant CSL lost 1 percent and telecom firm Telstra tumbled 2.6 percent.

Seoul stocks fell slightly to snap a four-day winning streak as rising U.S. political uncertainty put investors in a more risk-averse mode. The benchmark Kospi ended down 8.41 points or 0.34 percent at 2,486.08.

New Zealand shares fell on the back of weak cues from offshore markets and after the release of wider-than-expected current account deficit data for the fourth quarter.

The benchmark S&P/NZX-50 index dropped 40.51 points or 0.48 percent to 8,432.63, snapping a four-day winning streak. Sky Network Television shares lost as much as 5.8 percent on going ex-dividend.

Benchmark indexes in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were down between 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent.

Singapore's GDP is expected to climb 3.2 percent in 2018 instead of 3 percent projected in December, according to the Survey of Professional Forecasters published by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. For 2019, economy watchers forecast 2.8 percent expansion.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.7 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 1 percent to snap a seven-day winning streak and the S&P 500 declined 0.6 percent.

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