Asian stocks joined a global sell-off on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, sparking fears of a trade war. Renewed concerns over a faster pace of interest rate increases in the U.S. also kept investors nervous.
China's Shanghai Composite index dropped 19.18 points or 0.59 percent to 3,254.58 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index plunged 460.80 points or 1.48 percent to 30,583.45 as investors looked ahead to the upcoming session of the National People's Congress starting next week in Beijing. The gathering of 3,000-plus delegates is expected to set the tone for the year's development plans.
Japanese shares tumbled amid a stronger yen as investors fretted about a potential trade war and the prospect of the ECB and Bank of Japan exiting extraordinary stimulus.
The Nikkei average slumped 542.83 points or 2.50 percent to 21,181.64, the lowest closing level since Feb. 14. The index fell 3.2 percent for the week. The broader Topix index closed 1.83 percent lower at 1,708.34, dragged down by steel and aluminum companies.
Exporters Sony, Canon and Panasonic fell 1-2 percent as the yen strengthened. Steel makers Nisshin Steel, Kobe Steel and JFE Holdings all fell around 3 percent while automakers Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and Mazda Motor lost 2-4 percent on worries that higher tariffs could boost their costs.
In economic news, Japan's core consumer inflation rose at the fastest pace in nearly three years in February, while the jobless rate hit its lowest level in nearly 25 years in a sign that the labor market is tightening.
Australian shares extended losses for the third straight session, dragged down by miners after the U.S. said it would impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 44.40 points or 0.74 percent to 5,928.90 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 47.30 points or 0.78 percent at 6,028.40.
Miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group fell between 0.8 percent and 1.6 percent. BlueScope Steel rose 0.8 percent on expectations that its North American operations will benefit from the tariffs announced by Trump.
Woolworths shed 0.6 percent after the ACCC said it would take the company to the federal court, accusing it of incorrectly labeling its 'W Select eco' branded disposable picnic products as biodegradable.
Gold miner Newcrest gained over 1 percent and Regis Resources jumped more than 2 percent after gold prices rebounded from two-month lows.
Seoul stocks fell on increased selling by foreign and institutional investors amid trade war fears and after the release of mixed data.
While South Korea's manufacturing sector expanded at a slower rate in February, industrial output rebounded in January on brisk exports, separate reports showed. The benchmark Kospi ended down 25.20 points or 1.04 percent at 2,402.16.
New Zealand shares fell notably, mirroring weak cues from global markets as the threat of a trade war reverberated around the globe. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 54.29 points or 0.65 percent to 8,288.42, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation pacing the decliners.
Indian markets were closed for Holi. Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was down 0.2 percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was declining half a percent, the Taiwan Weighted shed 0.8 percent and Singapore's Straits Times index was losing 1 percent.
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 1.7 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the S&P 500 fell around 1.3 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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