Stocks Mixed as Trade Picture Stays Cloudy

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Wednesday amid growing uncertainty over the high-level trade negotiations between the U.S. and China due to commence later this week.

The Nikkei 225 retreated 131.4 points, or 0.6%, to 21,456.38.

In Japan, shares of Sharp dropped 2.9% while Murata Manufacturing rose 0.2%.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.13 against the U.S. dollar after strengthening from levels above 107.3 in the previous session.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dropped 210.59 points, or 0.8%, to 25,682.81, with shares of Chinese tech behemoth Tencent dropping 1.4%.

Sunny Optical shares in Hong Kong plunged 3.3% while AAC Tech also fell 2.7%, as of their final hour of trading.

Contract manufacturer Pegatron’s stock fell 2%, as did shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which was down 1.6%. iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, also dropped 1.5%.

Shares of Apple suppliers in Asia were mixed following criticism from Chinese state media on the U.S. tech giant’s decision to allow an app on its app store used by protesters in Hong Kong. The app in question, HKmap.live, tracks the movement of police around the city.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6735 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6721.

CHINA

The CSI 300 poked up 5.56 points, or 0.1%, to 3,843.24.

Shares of China-based Luxshare slipped 1% while GoerTek recovered from an earlier tumble to rise 0.8% on the day. Both companies assemble Apple’s AirPods.

The moves came as investors reacted to overnight developments in U.S.-China tensions. Washington expanded its trade blacklist to include some of China’s top artificial intelligence firms on Monday, in response to Beijing’s alleged treatment of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

For its part, China’s Ministry of Commerce said the U.S. should “stop interfering” in the country’s internal affairs and “remove” the relevant entities from the list “as soon as possible.”

In other markets

Markets in South Korea were closed on Wednesday for a holiday.

In Taiwan, the Taiex index lost 127.35 points, or 1.2%, to 10,889.96

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slid 20.95 points, or 0.7%, to 3,089.90

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 slumped 75.28 points, or 0.7%, to 10,940.86

In Australia, the ASX 200 stepped back 46.7 points, or 0.7%, to 6,546.73