China Trade News Disappoints, Asia Slides

Stocks in major Asian stock markets closed lower on Friday as investors grappled with fresh concerns over the state of the global economy, with Chinese trade data for February coming in below expectations.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 plummeted 430.45 points, or 2%, to 21,025.56, as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing, Softbank and Fanuc all declined.

The Japanese yen, often regarded as a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.99 against the U.S. dollar after seeing an earlier low of 111.64.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng nosedived 551.03 points, or 1.9%, to 28,228.42

Korean markets declined, as automaker Hyundai Motor saw its stock drop 4.4%.

Australian markets fell, with almost all the sectors seeing declines. The heavily weighted financial sub-index shed 1.6% as bank shares slipped.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7004 after touching an earlier high of $0.7028.

CHINA

In China, the CSI 300 slid 151.27 points, or 4%, to 3,657.58

Chinese customs data on Friday showed that dollar-denominated exports for China fell 20.7% for the month of February from a year ago, missing a 4.8% decline which economists had expected.

Dollar-denominated imports fell 5.2% in February from a year ago, missing economists' forecast of a 1.4% fall.

Analysts, however, say data from China in the first two months of the year must be treated with caution due to business distortions caused by the timing of the week-long Lunar New Year public holiday which started on Feb. 4 this year.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index dropped 28.35 points, or 1.3%, to 2,137.44

In Taiwan, the Taiex wilted 69.93 points, or 0.7%, to 10,241.75

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slumped 60.12 points, or 1%, to 2.969.86

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 nicked higher 2.91 points to 9,440.27

In Australia, the ASX 200 subtracted 33.61 points, or 1%, to 6,203.80