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Asian Markets Mostly Lower On Trade, Rate Hike Worries

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Monday amid continued worries about U.S.-China trade tensions and as upbeat U.S. jobs data reinforced expectations of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve later this month.

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested he may impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese goods. His administration is already considering imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods following the expiration of a public comment period at midnight on Thursday.

The Australian market is extending its losing streak to an eighth straight session following the negative cues from Wall Street Friday.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 11.90 points or 0.19 percent to 6,131.90, off a low of 6,123.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 10.40 points or 0.17 percent to 6,241.90.

Mining stocks are weak despite steady iron ore pries as well as slightly higher copper prices. Fortescue Metals is losing almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto declining more than 1 percent and BHP Billiton is down almost 1 percent.

Shares of gold and base metals explorer Explaurum are surging almost 42 percent after gold miner Ramelius Resources made a takeover bid for the company. Ramelius' shares are losing more than 3 percent.

In the banking sector, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are down in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly weak after crude oil prices declined for a third straight day on Friday. Santos is lower by more than 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down 0.2 percent, while Oil Search is adding 0.5 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is rising 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is lower by almost 1 percent after gold prices ended lower on Friday.

Investa Office Fund has set next Monday as the date for its shareholders to vote on U.S. private equity giant Blackstone Group's sweetened takeover bid of A$3.3 billion.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7115, down from $0.7152 on Friday.

The Japanese market is edging lower in choppy trading following the negative cues from Wall Street Friday and as investors digested upbeat Japanese economic data. Japanese shares closed lower for the sixth straight session on Friday.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 5.05 points or 0.02 percent to 22,302.01, after touching a high of 22382.53 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Sony is rising almost 1 percent, Canon is adding 0.6 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging up less than 0.1 percent, while Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

In the auto space, Toyota is adding 0.5 percent, while Honda is down 0.3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are adding almost 1 percent each.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is advancing more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is rising 1 percent after crude oil prices extended losses overnight.

Among the major gainers, Chiyoda Corp. is rising more than 3 percent and Pacific Metals is gaining almost 3 percent. Mitsui Mining & Smelting and JGC Corp. are higher by more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Sapporo Holdings is losing almost 4 percent, NHFoods is down more than 3 percent, while Taiheiyo Cement and Kirin Holdings are declining more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, the Cabinet Office said that Japan's gross domestic product climbed 3.0 percent on year in the second quarter of 2018. That beat forecasts for 2.6 percent and was up from the previous reading of 1.9 percent.

The Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.2 percent on year in August, coming in at 526.912 trillion yen. That follows the 2.0 percent increase in July. Excluding trusts, lending was also up 2.2 percent on year to 458.295 trillion yen - up from 2.0 percent in the previous month.

The Ministry of Finance said that Japan had a current account surplus of 2,009.7 billion yen in July. That beat forecasts for a surplus of 1,893.2 billion yen and was up from 1,175.6 billion yen in June.

The trade balance showed a deficit of 1.0 billion yen, exceeding expectations for a deficit of 47.7 billion yen following the 820.5 billion yen surplus in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are also lower, while South Korea and Malaysia are edging higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly lower on Friday amid ongoing trade concerns after President Donald Trump suggested he may impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese goods. Trading earlier in the day was impacted by reaction to a closely watched Labor Department report showing stronger than expected job growth in the month of August that reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this month.

The Dow fell 79.33 points or 0.3 percent to 25,916.54, the Nasdaq dipped 20.18 points or 0.3 percent to 7,902.54 and the S&P 500 slipped 6.37 points or 0.2 percent to 2,871.68.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.6 percent, the German DAX Index closed marginally higher and the French CAC 40 Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices declined marginally on Friday, as concerns about possible drop in demand due to trade war tensions slightly outweighed recent data showing a fall in crude stockpiles. WTI crude for October delivery edged down $0.02 to settle at $67.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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