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Asian Shares Retreat As Brexit Worries Mount

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Asian stocks fell broadly on Wednesday after British Prime Minister Theresa May lost a vote on her second Brexit proposal in a parliamentary showdown.

A "free vote" will take place today on a no-deal Brexit. If that fails, a further vote on Thursday will decide whether to extend the Brexit deadline.

Sentiment was also dented after U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said that "major issues" must still be resolved for a successful U.S.-China trade deal.

Chinese shares tumbled as investors waited for signs of progress on the trade dispute with the United States.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slumped 33.36 points or 1.1 percent to 3,026.95, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 133.42 points or 0.4 percent to 28,807.45.

Japanese shares ended sharply lower as the yen strengthened amid continuing global uncertainties and a report showed Japanese machinery orders fell at the fastest pace in four months in January.

The total value of core machinery orders in Japan plunged a seasonally adjusted 5.4 percent in January, missing expectations for a decline of 1.5 percent following the downwardly revised 0.3 percent dip in December.

The Nikkei 225 Index fell 213.45 points 1 percent to 21,290.24 after rallying 1.8 percent in the previous session. The broader Topix closed 0.8 percent lower at 1,592.07.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Dai-ichi Life Holdings and Nomura Holdings lost 1-3 percent after U.S. government debt yields fell on tame inflation data.

Canon, Honda Motors and Panasonic dropped 1-2 percent, while tech stocks such as Advantest and Sumco gave up more than 2 percent. Shin-Etsu Chemical climbed 2.1 percent on share buyback news.

Australian stocks fell for the fourth session in a row as Brexit-related uncertainty weighed on the markets and a slide in Westpac's consumer confidence reinforced a deteriorating outlook for the domestic economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped 13.60 points or 0.2 percent to 6,161.20, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 14.60 points or 0.2 percent at 6,246.

Banks ended on a subdued note even as the government backed away from a pledge to ban trailing commissions for mortgage brokers.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended slightly lower, while gold miners Evolution, Regis Resources and Newcrest rallied 1-3 percent after gold prices rebounded overnight.

Pharmacy operator Sigma Healthcare plunged 12.3 percent after rejecting a takeover offer from Australian Pharmaceutical Industries.

Shares of Yowie Group soared 21.4 percent after the confectionery maker received a A$20 million takeover bid from investment firm Keybridge Capital.

Seoul stocks fell on uncertainties over U.S.-China trade negotiations and Britain's looming exit from the European Union.

The benchmark Kospi declined 8.77 points or 0.4 percent to finish at 2,148.41. Large-cap shares paced the decliners, with SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor falling 1-2 percent.

New Zealand shares fell modestly, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index edging down 9.56 points or 0.1 percent to 9,387.69, dragged down by dual-listed banks.

In economic news, food prices in New Zealand advanced an unadjusted 0.4 percent in February, Statistics New Zealand said, slowing from the 1.0 percent gain in January.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mixed as Boeing shares continued to fall on safety concerns following another deadly crash involving its most popular plane.

Inflation remained in check last month, helping spur expectations the Fed will continue to refrain from raising interest rates in the near future.

The Dow dropped 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent.

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