Asia markets edge down as investors await US-China trade developments

Stocks in Asia were mostly lower in Wednesday afternoon trade as investors monitor developments on U.S.-China trade.

Mainland Chinese stocks declined by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite down 0.19%. The Shenzhen composite slipped 0.553% while the Shenzhen component shed 0.46%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped fractionally.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan was fractionally higher, with shares of index heavyweight and robot maker Fanuc advancing 0.93%. The Topix index, however, shed 0.24%.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi was largely flat while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia declined 0.46%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.22% lower.

Movements in the Chinese yuan were also watched, after the currency strengthened to below the 7 level against the dollar for the first time since August on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the People’s Bank of China set the midpoint for the yuan at 7.0080 per dollar — its strongest since August 8, Reuters reported.The onshore yuan was last at 6.9957, while its offshore counterpart traded at 6.9958.

Investors continue to watch for more developments on U.S.-China trade as the two economic powerhouses work toward reaching a deal.

China is pushing U.S. President Donald Trump to remove more tariffs on about $125 billion worth of Chinese goods imposed in September as part of the “phase one” trade deal, reports said. “Firmer commitments on lifting tariffs” are needed for China to pay a visit to the U.S., according to the South China Morning Post.

“The U.S.-China trade deal, I think, is really off to a reasonable start. I saw the president say it’s 60% of the way there, I’m not sure of that but I do believe there’s going to be continued momentum on the trade front,” Michael Yoshikami founder and CEO of Destination Wealth Management, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“Both countries need it badly,” Yoshikami said, adding that more progress on the deal will likely be seen in the rest of this year and the first quarter of next year.

Beijing and Washington have been locked in a trade war for more than a year, with tariffs being slapped on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods. Recent data has shown that both economic powerhouses have suffered losses in the tens of billions of dollars from the trade fight.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average nudged higher to a new record as it gained 30.52 points to close at 27,492.63. The Nasdaq Composite ended its trading day little changed at 8,434.68. The S&P 500, on the other hand, slipped 0.1% to close at 3,074.67.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.891 after rising from levels below 97.5 seen earlier in the trading week.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.04 against the dollar after weakening from levels below 109.0 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6898 after seeing an earlier low of $0.883

Oil prices fell in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures slipping 0.62% to $62.57 per barrel and U.S. crude futures declining 0.59% to $56.89 per barrel.

What’s on tap:

  • Thailand: Bank of Thailand rate decision

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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