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Asian Markets Lower On Trade, Growth Worries

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Asian stock markets are lower on Friday following the weak cues from Wall Street amid worries about global economic growth after the European Commission lowered its growth forecasts for eurozone. Concerns about the U.S.-China trade dispute also weighed on sentiment after U.S. President Donald Trump said he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline for reaching a trade deal.

The Australian market is declining, with stocks lower across the board. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 25.60 points or 0.42 percent to 6,066.90, after touching a low of 6,058.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 25.20 points or 0.41 percent to 6,133.90.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is losing more than 1 percent, while BHP Group and Fortescue Metals are declining almost 1 percent each.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is down 0.6 percent, while Evolution Mining is rising 0.5 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is rising 0.6 percent.

On Thursday, National Australia Bank announced the resignation of chief executive Andrew Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry.

Oil stocks are weak after crude oil prices declined more than 2 percent overnight. Santos is lower by more than 3 percent, Oil Search is losing almost 3 percent, and Woodside Petroleum is down more than 1 percent.

REA Group, which is 61.6 percent owned by News Corp., said its Australian real estate listings declined 3 percent in the first half and the company warned of further possible declines in the second half of the year due to Federal and State elections. The company's shares are losing more than 4 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is flat against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7100, compared to $0.7099 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is notably lower. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 267.43 points or 1.29 percent to 20,483.85, after touching a low of 20,468.76 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly lower on a stronger safe-haven yen. Mitsubishi Electric is lower by almost 3 percent, Panasonic is losing more than 1 percent, and Canon is down almost 1 percent.

Sony announced it's first-ever share buyback of 100 billion yen, to be conducted through March 22, and equivalent to 2.36 percent of the company's outstanding stock. The company's shares are rising more than 5 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is declining more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is losing more than 3 percent. Among the major automakers, Toyota and Honda are down more than 1 percent each.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining almost 1 percent. In the oil space, Japan Petroleum is lower by more than 2 percent and Inpex is losing 2 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Terumo Corp. is rising almost 7 percent, Meiji Holdings is higher by more than 5 percent and Fujifilm Holdings is advancing almost 5 percent.

On the flip side, Nikon Corp. is losing more than 11 percent, Toyo Seikan Group is declining more than 9 percent and Ricoh Co. is lower by more than 7 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a current account surplus of 452.8 billion yen in December, down 43.1 percent on year. That was shy of expectations for a surplus of 458.5 billion yen and down from 757.2 billion yen in November.

Japan's trade balance in December showed a surplus of 216.2 billion yen, exceeding forecasts for 132.4 billion yen following the 559.1 billion yen deficit in the previous month. Exports were down 2.8 percent on year to 7.069 trillion yen after gaining 1.9 percent a month earlier. Imports added an annual 1.6 percent to 6.853 trillion yen after surging 13.5 percent on year in November.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the average of household spending in Japan was up a discontinuity adjusted 0.1 percent on year in December, coming in at 329,271 yen. That missed expectations for an increase of 0.9 percent following the 0.6 percent contraction in November.

The Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.4 percent on year in January, coming in at 535.350 trillion yen and roughly unchanged from December. Excluding trusts, bank lending advanced an annual 2.4 percent to 465.921 trillion yen, slowing from the 2.5 percent increase in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 109 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and Hong Kong are losing more than 1 percent each, while Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are also lower. New Zealand is modestly higher. The markets in Taiwan and China remain closed on Friday for the Lunar New Year holidays.

On Wall Street, stocks closed notably lower on Thursday amid renewed concerns about a U.S.-China trade deal after a report from CNBC said President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are "highly unlikely" to meet before a March 2 deadline. Worries about the global economy also weighed on the markets after the European Commission lowered its eurozone growth forecast.

The Dow slumped 220.77 points or 0.9 percent to 25,169.53, the Nasdaq plunged 86.93 points or 1.2 percent to 7,288.35 and the S&P 500 tumbled 25.56 points or 0.9 percent to 2,706.05.

The major European markets also moved notably lower on Thursday. While the German DAX Index plunged by 2.7 percent, the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.8 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slumped by 1.1 percent.

Crude oil prices declined on Thursday amid concerns about demand growth due to the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Crude for March delivery dropped $1.37 or 2.5 percent to $52.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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