(RTTNews.com) - Asian stocks ended on a muted note Wednesday after China said it would seek permission from the World Trade Organization next week to impose sanctions on U.S. goods in retaliation for Washington's non-compliance with a ruling in a dispute over dumping duties.
Investors also braced for a protracted trade war between the world's two biggest economies after U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. was taking a tough stance with China.
China's Shanghai Composite index ended down 0.33 percent at 2,656.11 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped 0.29 percent to close at 26,345.04.
Media reports suggested that China is putting off accepting license applications from American businesses hoping to operate in the country, as the Trump administration prepares to impose tariffs on all $500 billion-plus imports from China.
Japanese shares fell on concerns over tourism demand and potential damage to business after a powerful earthquake in Hokkaido. The Nikkei average slid 60.08 points or 0.27 percent to 22,604.61 while the broader Topix index closed 0.45 percent lower at 1,691.32.
Hokkaido Electric Power Co plunged 5.3 percent after announcing an emergency shutdown of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants. Advantest lost 3.7 percent and Sumco fell as much as 7.8 percent in the technology sector. Exporters Canon, Honda Motor and Panasonic declined 1-2 percent.
Australian markets ended little changed as concerns about an ongoing inquiry into financial industry misconduct and a fall in commodity prices pulled down banks and miners. Both the S&P/ASX 200 index and the broader All Ordinaries index finished marginally lower at 6,175.90 and 6,283.90, respectively.
Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac fell between 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent. Freedom Insurance Group shares plunged 20 percent as a powerful public inquiry into the financial sector turned its attention to the life insurance industry. Suncorp Group lost 1.7 percent and QBE Insurance Group shed 0.4 percent.
Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell modestly while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 3 percent, reflecting weakness in base metal prices on worries about trade tensions.
Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy rallied 2-3 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 2 percent overnight on data showing falling crude inventories and the looming Iranian sanctions.
Myer Holdings plummeted 4.6 percent after reporting a full-year net loss on asset write-downs and lower sales.
APA Group added 1.3 percent after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved an A$13 billion takeover bid by a Hong Kong consortium for the country's biggest gas pipeline company.
In economic news, Australia's consumer confidence deteriorated in September reflecting political instability and rises in mortgage interest rates, data from Westpac showed today.
Seoul stocks fell, dragged down by tech shares as investors continued to fret about global trade tensions and rising uncertainty in emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina.
The benchmark Kospi closed marginally lower at 2,282.92, giving up earlier gains. Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 1.1 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2 percent.
New Zealand shares ended modestly lower, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closing down 30 points or 0.33 percent at 9,195.57. Heavyweight Spark New Zealand fell over 1 percent after rallying 3.6 percent the previous day.
Overnight, U.S. stocks shrugged off initial weakness to close higher as technology shares continued to recover from recent string of losses.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.4 percent.
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