Nikkei Falters amid Trade Concerns

Asian stocks closed mostly lower on Thursday, with investors cautious over fresh trade-related developments as the trade dispute between the U.S. and China remained in focus.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 tumbled 252.73 points, or 1.1%, to 22,437.01, on the firmer yen, extending losses in the last session. Autos traded lower, as did other major exporters as the yen rose around 0.4% to trade at 109.58 to the U.S. dollar.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index recovered 94.77 points, or 0.3%, to 30,760.41

Australian markets edged up, with the heavily weighted financials sub-index weighing.

Stocks of South Korean automakers were broadly lower on Thursday, with Hyundai Motor down 3.1% and Kia Motors sliding 2.8%. Japanese automakers, which had been under pressure from the firmer yen, also saw declines: Toyota Motor lost 3.1% and Honda Motor fell 3.4%

Of note, the Bank of Korea on Thursday announced it would be keeping rates on hold at 1.5%, a move that was expected by markets.

The U.S. Department of Commerce started an investigation into automobile imports on a "national security" basis, the agency announced Wednesday during U.S. hours. The surprise announcement comes at a time of worsening friction over international trade between the United States and its allies.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 dipped 27.36 points, or 0.7%, to 3,827.22

In Korea, the Kospi index gained 6.34 points, or 0.3%, to 2,471.91

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index regained 32.65 points, or 0.9%, to 3,528.92

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index recouped 50.75 points, or 0.5%, to 10,936.93

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 was in the green 37.54 points, or 0.4%, to 8,590.77

In Australia, the ASX 200 regained 4.58 points, or 0.1%, to 6,037.08