Asia Mixed as Investors Await Harder Trade News

High-level trade talks between the U.S. and China are underway in Beijing. Stocks in Asia were mixed on Thursday as investors looked for progress in the months-long tariff dispute.

There were reports that U.S. President Donald Trump may be considering whether to extend the deadline for a trade deal with China.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 demurred 4.77 points to 21,139.71. Shares of Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo chain of apparel stores, rose 0.4% on the day.

That came after government data showed Japan's gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 1.4% in the October to December period last year.

The preliminary reading for fourth quarter gross domestic product was in line with expectations from economists. It came on the back of a downward revision to 2.6% annualized contraction in the third quarter.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.04 against the U.S. dollar after touching an earlier high of 110.85.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng lost 65.54 points, or 0.2%, to 28,432.95

In Australia, stocks were flat as the heavily-weighted financial sub-index shed 0.8%. Shares of the country's so-called Big Four banks declined: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped 0.3% National Australia Bank shed 0.7%, Westpac fell 0.7% while Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 0.9%

The Australian dollar was at $0.7128 U.S. after seeing a low of around $0.7082 U.S. earlier.

CHINA

In China, the CSI 300 gained 5.11 points, or 0.2%, to 3,402.14

The moves came on the back of Chinese trade data for January coming in stronger than expected.

Dollar-denominated exports for the month rose 9.1% from a year ago, according to Chinese customs data. January exports in the world's second-largest economy were expected to have contracted 3.2% from a year earlier, according to economists, compared with December's 4.4% decline.

January dollar-denominated imports fell 1.5% on-year, which was far better than expected. Imports in December fell 7.6% from a year ago.
Overnight, U.S. stocks rose on hopes of a possible U.S.-China trade deal.

The South China Morning Post reported Wednesday that China's Xi will meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index gathered 24.37 points, or 1.1%, to 2,225.85

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index added 8.39 points, or 0.3%, to 3,253.16

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index dropped 1.57 points to 10,089.01

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 settled 48.46 points, or 0.5%, to 9,284.92

In Australia, the ASX 200 subtracted 4.18 points, or 0.1%, to 6,059.39