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Asian Shares Mostly Lower Ahead Of Signing Of U.S.-China Trade Deal

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Asian stocks moved mostly lower on Wednesday as investors awaited the signing of a phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China.

Traders became less enthusiastic as they digested news that tariffs of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods will remain in place until a phase two deal is completed.

Chinese shares fell amid concerns the remaining tariffs will continue to hamper growth, as a phase two deal could take even longer to complete.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gave up 16.78 points, or 0.5 percent, to end at 3,090.04, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid 111.55 points, or 0.4 percent, to 28,773.59.

Japanese shares slipped into the red and the yen strengthened amid uncertainty about the timing of further tariff reductions.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 108.59 points, or 0.5 percent, to 23,916.58, snapping a three-day winning streak and retreating from a four-week high hit the previous day. The broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,731.06.

Entertainment Toho slumped 5.7 percent after its quarterly earnings came in short of expectations. Ryohin Keikaku lost 3 percent to extend losses after the Muji operator cut its profit forecast. Square Enix Holdings declined 4.4 percent after announcing a delay in the launch of a new game.

Meanwhile, Australian markets reached fresh record highs ahead of the signing of the preliminary U.S.-China trade deal. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 32.60 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,994.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 35.50 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,113.50.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended on a mixed note. Resolute Mining gained 0.9 percent after it signed definitive agreements for the sale of the Ravenswood Gold Mine in Queensland to a consortium. Evolution Mining soared 5.8 percent, Newcrest rallied 3.1 percent and St Barbara jumped 8.1 percent.

Energy stocks such as Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search climbed around 1 percent, while Beach Energy advanced 2.6 percent.

Seoul stocks ended lower to snap a four-session winning streak as optimism surrounding the U.S.-China phase one trade deal waned.

The benchmark Kospi dropped 7.90 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,230.98. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics shed 1.7 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2.3 percent.

South Korea's jobless rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 percent in December from 3.6 percent in November, figures from Statistics Korea showed. The rate was forecast to remain unchanged.

New Zealand shares rose modestly, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending up 51.54 points, or 0.4 percent, at 11,676.67. Electricity retailer Genesis Energy climbed 1.9 percent and Mercury NZ rose about 1 percent.

U.S. stocks fluctuated overnight before closing mixed as investors digested quarterly results from several big-name financial companies and reacted to a Bloomberg report that the U.S. will not remove tariffs on Chinese imports until after the 2020 presidential election.

The Dow Jones Industrial average edged up 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 both dipped 0.2 percent.

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