Asia Lower on Trade Concerns

Stocks in Asia fell on Thursday amid fresh trade concerns, with the U.S. announcing it’s set to slap tariffs on European Union goods.

The Nikkei 225 plummeted 436.87 points, or 2%, to 21,341.74, with shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing, Softbank Groupand Fanuc all dropping at least 2% each.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.22 per U.S. dollar after seeing an earlier high of 106.95.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng gained 67.62 points, or 0.3%, to 26,110.31, bucking the regional trend.

The turnaround came amid local media reports that authorities in the city are set to ban face masks at rallies through an emergency law.
Hong Kong retail sales in August plunged to their lowest on record, amid protracted protests in the city that have lasted for months. Shares of retailers were mixed on Thursday, with Chow Tai Fook Jewellery gaining 1.3% and Prada slipping 0.9% while Sa Sa International surged 4.1%.

Australian markets moved sharply lower, as the heavily-weighted financial sub-index fell 2.6%, with shares of the country’s so-called Big Four banks seeing declines: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped 2.7%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia shed 2.8%, Westpac fell 2.4% and National Australia Bank dropped 3.5%.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6710 after bouncing from levels below $0.67 yesterday.

Fears that a new battle on the trade front could rattle markets again. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it will impose tariffs on European Union goods on October 18.

That comes on top of the ongoing trade war between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese and U.S. officials scheduled to meet in Washington next week. The tariff fight between the two largest economies has lasted for more than a year with seemingly no end in sight.

Markets in mainland China and Korea were still shuttered for holiday.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex index fell 71.97 points, or 0.7%, to 10,875.91

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index swooned 15.48 points, or 0.5%, to 3,078.97

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 plunged 130.44 points, or 1.2%, to 10,821.21

In Australia, the ASX 200 slumped 146.95 points, or 2.2%, to 6,492.99