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Asian Shares Mixed Amid Growth Worries, Trade Tensions

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Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday, as dovish messages being sent from the ECB and the Federal Reserve added to investor concerns over slowing global growth.

Investors also braced for more Brexit uncertainty after EU leaders agreed to extend the date of Britain's departure from the bloc to the end of October.

China's Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 51.97 points or 1.6 percent to 3,189.96 despite more signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 280.11 points or 0.9 percent to 29,839.45.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC a call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Tuesday night was productive and the two sides have settled on a mechanism to police any agreement, including new enforcement offices.

Japanese shares ended a choppy session slightly higher as the yen strengthened and investors awaited earnings results from Yaskawa Electric, a manufacturer with large exposure to China.

The Nikkei 225 Index inched up 23.81 points or 0.1 percent to 21,711.38, while the broader Topix closed little changed at 1,606.52.

Financials ended broadly lower after U.S. Treasury yields weakened overnight on expectations that the Fed will hold rates steady or possibly cut them by the end of the year.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group declined 1.4 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial shed 1.6 percent, Dai-ichi Life Holdings gave up 2.2 percent and T&D Holdings tumbled 2.7 percent.

Ryohin Keikaku plunged almost 10 percent after warning it expects a 6 percent fall in net profit for the year ending February 2020.

Australian markets fell modestly, dragged down by banks and miners on worries over slower global economic growth.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 24.80 points or 0.4 percent to 6,198.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 22.40 points or 0.4 percent at 6,294.10.

The big four banks fell between 0.7 percent and 1.3 percent after U.S. government bond yields fell Wednesday following an underwhelming report on consumer prices and cautious signals from central-banks.

Bank of Queensland slumped 4.9 percent as it cut payout after reporting an 8 percent drop in first-half cash earnings.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto declined 0.6 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively amid broader weakness in metal prices.

Whitehaven Coal edged up 0.3 percent despite cutting its full-year production outlook. Energy stocks ended mixed, while healthcare stocks such as CSL and Cochlear ended down over 1 percent each.

Seoul stocks ended flat as investors adopted a cautious stance ahead of an upcoming summit between South Korea and the United States, which is expected to focus on ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table. The benchmark Kospi finished marginally higher at 2,224.44.

New Zealand shares gained ground, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending up 58.64 points or 0.6 percent at 9,766.60, snapping a six-day losing streak. Retirement village operator Summerset Group Holdings jumped 4.2 percent.

In economic news, a government report showed that food prices in New Zealand climbed an unadjusted 0.5 percent sequentially in March following the 0.4 percent gain in February. Seasonally adjusted food prices were flat in the month.

U.S. stocks rose overnight as U.S. core inflation rose less than forecast in March and minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting suggested that interest rates could shift in either direction.

The Dow inched up marginally, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.7 percent to reach its best closing level in over six months.

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