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Asian Shares Mixed As Investors Focus On Trade Talks

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Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as investors kept an eye on political developments in Italy and looked ahead to the beginning of trade talks between China and the U.S. later in the day.

China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 15.33 points or 0.5 percent to 3,154.24, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 168.05 points or 0.5 percent to 30,942.15.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares closed higher as a rally by technology and financial stocks helped investors shrug off weak machinery orders data.

The total value of core machine orders in Japan dropped 3.9 percent in March, the Cabinet Office said, coming in at 856.6 billion yen. That missed expectations for a decline of 3.0 percent following the 2.1 percent increase in February.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index climbed 121.14 points or 0.5 percent to 22,838.37, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,808.37.

Australian shares fell modestly on China trade concerns. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped 12.70 points or 0.2 percent to 6,094.30, and the broader All Ordinaries Index edged down 10.90 points or 0.2 percent to 6,197.20.

Westpac Bank shares fell 3.7 percent on going ex-dividend, while the other three major banks rose between 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent. Treasury Wine Estates plummeted 6.2 percent after the winemaker said it was experiencing delays in shipments to China.

Toll-road operator Transurban Group lost 1.7 percent as Australia's competition regulator raised concerns about the effects on inter-toll road competition if it acquired WestConnex.

Oil and gas producer Santos declined 1.9 percent after it received a $10.36 billion binding takeover offer from U.S.-based Harbour Energy.

On the other hand, strength in commodity prices supported miners, with heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rising 1.3 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Lithium miner Kidman Resources rallied 2.8 percent after it signed a pact to supply lithium hydroxide to electric car maker Tesla Inc.

On the data front, the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.6 percent in April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. That exceeded expectations for 5.5 percent, which would have been unchanged from March.

The economy added 22,600 jobs last month, beating forecasts for 20,000 jobs following the addition of 4,900 jobs in the previous month.

Seoul stocks closed lower amid increased geopolitical uncertainties surrounding inter-Korean relations after Pyongyang unilaterally decided to cancel planned high-level talks with South Korea earlier this week.

The benchmark Kospi slid 11.37 points or 0.5 percent to 2,448.45. Pharmaceutical shares also lost ground, with Samsung BioLogics falling 3.9 percent to close at 398,000 won.

New Zealand share rose as gains in dairy firms outweighed disappointing earnings guidance from Pushpay Holdings.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 47.87 points or 0.6 percent to 8,603.38 as the government delivered a big boost for public services in its first Budget. A2 Milk jumped 4.2 percent and Synlait Milk advanced 1.9 percent while Pushpay shares fell as much as 5.1 percent.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite Index was moving down 0.2 percent as a government report showed the country's economic growth eased at a faster-than-expected pace in the first quarter. GDP grew an annual 5.4 percent in the first quarter, slower than the 5.9 percent rise in the fourth quarter.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was marginally higher. Singapore's non-oil domestic exports surged 11.8 percent year-over-year in April, reversing a 3.2 fall in March, official data showed.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fluctuated before finishing modestly higher as positive earnings news from department store chain Macy's helped investors shrug off mixed housing and factory activity data as well as renewed trade tensions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.4 percent.

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