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Asian Shares Drift Lower On Brexit Uncertainty

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Asian stocks fell on Thursday after data showed an unexpected decrease in U.S. retail sales in September and a final breakthrough on a Brexit deal failed to emerge ahead of an EU summit in Brussels.

Chinese shares ended roughly flat as investors had a muted reaction to the Hong Kong protests and reports suggesting that China would remove business restrictions on foreign banks, brokerages and fund management firms.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are working on nailing down phase one trade deal text for their presidents to sign in November.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index edged down 31.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,977.33, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 184.21 points, or 0.7 percent, to 26,848.49.

Japanese shares fell from ten-month highs as investors awaited more clarity on U.S.-China trade talks and Brexit negotiations. The Nikkei 225 Index finished marginally lower at 22,451.86, while the broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,624.16.

Chip-related stocks fell after ASML Holding NV said its net profit fell 7.9 percent in the third quarter. Tokyo Electron shed 9.6 percent and Screen Holdings dropped 1.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Murata Manufacturing rose over 1 percent after its chief executive Tsuneo Murata told the Nikkei business daily that the electronic components market is bottoming out.

Australian markets ended lower to snap a five-session winning streak, with miners pacing the declines as iron ore prices continued to slide on worries over Chinese demand.

The benchmark S&P ASX 200 Index dropped 51.80 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,684.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 51.70 points, or 0.8 percent, at 6,791.50.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio lost around 3 percent, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group slumped 4 percent.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac fell between 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent. Bank of Queensland declined 2.4 percent after posting lower full-year earnings and trimming dividend.

On the other hand, South32 advanced 1.6 percent as it reported a 9 percent increase in coking coal production for the first quarter and affirmed its fiscal 2020 production outlook across all of its operations.

IOOF Holdings soared 10.9 percent after the wealth manager provided an update on its acquisition of ANZ Wealth Pension and Investments business from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Energy firms Woodside Petroleum and Santos rose 0.7 percent and half a percent, respectively after unveiling their third-quarter results.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.2 percent in September. That was shy of expectations for 5.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the August reading.

The Australian economy added 14,700 jobs last month, below forecasts for 15,000 following the increase of 34,700 jobs in the previous month.

Seoul stocks fell as investors booked some profits after recent gains. The benchmark Kospi slipped 4.89 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,077.94, as caution prevailed ahead of crucial Brexit talks.

New Zealand shares fell modestly, with the benchmark S&P NZX-50 Index ending down 36.78 points, or 0.3 percent, at 11,141.86. Television operator Spark New Zealand tumbled 2.3 percent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.3 percent. The country's non-oil domestic exports continued to decline in September albeit at a slower pace, a government report showed.

U.S. stocks edged lower overnight as weak economic data raised fresh concerns about growth but added to optimism about further interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.1 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.

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