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Asian Shares Slide As Growth Worries Return

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Asian stocks fell broadly on Monday as an unexpected drop in Chinese exports and concerns surrounding the ongoing U.S. government shutdown and the vote on Brexit this week kept investors on the sidelines. The Japanese markets were closed for the 'Coming of Age Day' holiday.

Investors also awaited cues from the U.S. earnings season, with several banks set to unveil their quarterly results this week.

China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 18.07 points or 0.7 percent to 2,535.77, as the latest trade data indicated a further slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 368.94 points or 1.4 percent to 26,298.33.

Chinese exports unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier December, the biggest drop in two years. Imports also fell 7.6 percent, marking the biggest decline since July of 2016.

Australian stocks gave up early gains to end roughly flat as the weak Chinese trade figures sparked fresh worries over the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war. Both the S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index finished marginally lower at 5,773.40 and 5,833.20, respectively.

Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers fell 2.2 percent after warning that its discount department stores had slower than expected sales over Christmas.

Energy stocks such as Origin Energy and Oil Search dropped around 1 percent as oil prices fell for a second straight session. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto fell slightly, while the big four banks rose around half a percent.

Retail Food Group soared 15.3 percent on news it is considering selling assets to pay down debt.

South Korean stocks closed lower as the partial U.S. government shutdown entered its fourth week with no end in sight. The benchmark Kospi ended down 11.05 points or 0.5 percent at 2.064.52.

Technology stocks led the declines, with Samsung Electronics losing 1.1 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix ending down 4.6 percent.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares inched higher in quiet trading, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending up 8.97 points or 0.1 percent at 8,968.55. Kathmandu Holdings rebounded from recent losses to end higher by 1.3 percent.

U.S. stocks edged lower on Friday after rallying over the five previous sessions. Underlying sentiment turned cautious as oil prices dropped and investors awaited earnings from big Wall Street banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 edged down marginally, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.2 percent.

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