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Asian Shares Tumble Ahead Of Trade Talks

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Asian shares tumbled on Thursday as investors waited to see if the U.S. and China can strike a trade deal during two days of talks in Washington starting later in the day.

Underlying sentiment turned cautious after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be happy to keep tariffs on Chinese imports, while Beijing announced it would take "necessary countermeasures."

China's Shanghai Composite Index slumped 42.80 points or 1.5 percent to 2,850.95 amid heightened trade tensions, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 692.13 points or 2.4 percent to 28,311.07.

Chinese consumer price inflation rose to a six-month high in April, while producer price inflation increased at the fastest pace in four months, data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed today.

The consumer price index rose 2.5 percent year-on-year in April following a 2.3 percent increase in March. The producer price index rose an annual 0.9 percent in the month compared to a 0.4 percent increase in March.

Separately, central bank data showed that new loans given by Chinese banks totaled 1.02 trillion yuan in April, well below analysts' expectations and March's 1.69 trillion yuan.

Japanese shares fell for the fourth straight session to hit a six-week low as the yen remained well bid against the dollar on safe-haven demand.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 200.46 points or 0.9 percent to 21,402.13, its lowest level since March 29. The broader Topix closed 1.4 percent lower at 1,550.71.

China-related stocks underperformed, with Fanuc, Komatsu and Kawasaki Kisen plummeting 4-6 percent.

SoftBank Corp advanced 0.7 percent after the telecom firm said it would spend $4 billion to raise its stake in Yahoo Japan Corp. Shares of the latter soared 9.4 percent

Australian markets eked out modest gains, with telecom companies leading the surge. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 26.20 points or 0.4 percent to 6,295.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 25.50 points or 0.4 percent at 6,377.30.

TPG Telecom edged up slightly to recover some of its losses from the previous session after a planned $7.7 billion merger of Vodafone Group Plc's struggling Australian business with TPG Telecom Ltd. was blocked by the country's anti-trust regulator. Telstra shares advanced 2.7 percent and Vocus Group added 1.6 percent.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group dropped around half a percent, while energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos climbed around 2 percent after oil prices rose more than 1 percent overnight.

Bulk grain handler Graincorp slumped 4.3 percent after it posted a half-year underlying loss after tax of A$48 million. Airline Qantas Airways rallied 2.2 percent after it forecast record annual revenue.

Seoul stocks nosedived and the Korean won hit a more than two-year low as investors awaited the outcome of U.S.-China trade negotiations in Washington.

The benchmark Kospi plunged 66 points or 3 percent to 2,102.01, extending losses for the fourth straight session and hitting its lowest level since January 15. Hyundai Motor, LG Chem, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix fell 3-5 percent.

New Zealand shares ended modestly higher, a day after the country's central bank lowered the official cash rate to a historic low, citing a weaker outlook for global growth. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 41.30 points or 0.4 percent to 10,104.35.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mostly lower amid continued uncertainty over U.S.-China trade. The Dow inched up marginally, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent.

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