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=ASIA MARKETS: Asian Stocks Fall Tracking Wall Street Losses Amid Persisting Trade Worries

HONG KONG (May 21) -- Asian shares outside of Japan declined Tuesday, weighed by overnight losses on Wall Street amid persistent worries over U.S.-China trade relations.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan fell 0.2% to 1,258.03. An index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong ended little changed, paring intraday gains, as Chinese insurers fell.

In Hong Kong, Ping An Insurance Group ended 0.5% lower, while rival AIA Group lost 1.1%. Sunny Optical Technology Group extended recent declines, falling 0.4%.

The negative session for Asian equities came despite the U.S. temporarily easing trade restrictions on Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies. According to a Reuters report, Washington is allowing Huawei to purchase U.S.-made goods to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing handsets.

Last week, the U.S. added Huawei to a list of companies banned from buying components and technology from U.S. companies without approval. That came after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban the use of information and communications technology or services that pose “an unacceptable risk” to national security.

Despite the easing of restrictions by the U.S., worries remained over the impact of the Huawei situation on the already strained trade relationship with China. In an interview with Bloomberg, China’s ambassador to the European Union, Zhang Ming, said that Beijing could retaliate against the U.S. move to blacklist Huawei.

“Developments over the past two weeks on the trade tensions front have increased the risk that the escalation could be more extended than previously thought,” Morgan Stanley said in a note. “Trade tensions are a credible threat to the global business cycle and the biggest factor weighing on global corporate confidence.”

In other movers on the A300, Tata Motors slumped 7.1% after the Indian owner of Jaguar Land Rover reported its net profit in the March quarter almost halved from a year earlier.

China Unicom (Hong Kong) edged 0.1% higher. The company said late Monday that it had added a net 1.14 million mobile billing subscribers in April, bringing the aggregate number to 324.3 million.

Singapore equities came under pressure after the nation cut its economic growth forecast for the current year to 1.5% to 2.5%, compared with 1.5% to 3.5% previously. Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement that “the global growth outlook remains clouded by uncertainties and downside risks” amid escalation trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

DBS Group Holdings, Singapore’s largest lender, slipped 0.6%. UOL Group led property companies lower, falling 2.3%.

Meanwhile, Thailand, too, cut its growth outlook for the current year after its first-quarter economic growth fell short of estimates.

- By Nimesh Vora;; +852 3960 5150
- Edited by Vipin Nair
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