Stocks in Asia slip, Mainland China mixed

Stocks in Asia slipped Wednesday afternoon, with trade declines coming on the back of Wall Street’s overnight tumble. The market also saw currencies across Asia decline after the U.S. put 9 countries on a watch list of potential currency manipulators.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 shed 1.15% in afternoon deals, while the Topix dropped 0.9%. In South Korea, the Kospi declined 1.43% as shares of electronics giant Samsung Electronics slipped 2%.

Australia’s ASX 200 saw declines of 0.7%, with almost all sectors trading lower on the day.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index shed 0.4%, which came as shares of banking giant HSBC and China Construction Bank traded lower.

However, mainland Chinese stocks traded in mixed signals, with the Shanghai composite losing 0.11% in the morning session before rallying 0.14% higher by close of trade. The Shenzhen component fell 0.19% but the Shenzhen composite saw an upside of 0.120%.

The losses come even as most investors remain cautious and look out for signals from Beijing and Washington as the trade war tension continues to escalate.

After U.S. President Donald Trump noted on Monday that the U.S. wasn’t ready for a trade deal yet, China appeared to respond with a veiled threat regarding rare earth minerals.

These minerals are vital to the American technology industry, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent tour of rare earth mining facilities has fueled speculation that China could make it difficult for the U.S. on this front.

The U.S. Treasury’s report keeping China, Germany, and Japan on a watch list of nations being monitored for currency manipulation saw many currencies slip against the greenback.

The Chinese yuan dropped to 6.9134 to the dollar, with the currency’s offshore counterpart not better off at 6.9274. The Korean won continued its poor streak in 2019 as it declined to trade at 1,193.73.

Malaysia’s ringgit dropped against the dollar to 4.1940, with the Malaysian central bank trying to reassure the market with assertions that the currency’s exchange rate remained market-determined. The Japanese yen was more of an outlier though, with the safe haven currency changing hands at 109.32 against the greenback.