Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday with news of US tariffs on washing machines and sonar panels sparking fears of a global trade war.
The Shanghai Composite was up 0.4 percent while the Hang Seng inched up 0.1 percent. Mainland Chinese investors were optimistic about growth in 2018.
The Nikkei and Topix declined 0.8 percent and 0.5 percent respectively thanks to the strengthening yen. The US dollar dropped below the ¥110 threshold for the first time in four months, triggering selling in exporters. Weaker than expected Japanese trade data for December also dented sentiment.
December’s merchandise trade surplus widened to ¥359 billion in December from ¥112 billion in November. Exports increased 9.3 percent on the year after increasing 16.2 percent in November. Imports advanced 14.9 percent on the year slowing from 17.2 percent in November. Fanuc, Sony, Tokyo Electron, Banks Mizuho Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group all retreated. Mitsui Fudosan and Pacific metals however, advanced.
Both the S&P/ASX and All Ordinaries added 0.3 percent. Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac edged higher while Commonwealth declined. Insurer QBE jumped on expectations the company is working on improving its return on equity by selling non-core and underperforming assets. Medical equipment maker ResMed advanced. Energy majors Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search climbed 1 after Brent crude prices surged towards $70 a barrel for the first time in a week. Weaker base metal prices led to the declines BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto.
The Kospi and Sensex both edged up 0.1 percent.