Asian Markets Close Mixed as US, China Hold Trade Talks

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as investors kept an eye on political developments in Italy and looked ahead to the beginning of trade talks between China and the U.S. later in the day.

China?s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 15.33 points or 0.5 percent to 3,154.24, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 168.05 points or 0.5 percent to 30,942.15.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares closed higher as a rally by technology and financial stocks helped investors shrug off weak machinery orders data.The total value of core machine orders in Japan dropped 3.9 percent in March, the Cabinet Office said, coming in at 856.6 billion yen. That missed expectations for a decline of 3.0 percent following the 2.1 percent increase in February.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index climbed 121.14 points or 0.5 percent to 22,838.37, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,808.37.

Australian shares fell modestly on China trade concerns. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped 12.70 points or 0.2 percent to 6,094.30, and the broader All Ordinaries Index edged down 10.90 points or 0.2 percent to 6,197.20.

Westpac Bank shares fell 3.7 percent on going ex-dividend, while the other three major banks rose between 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent. Treasury Wine Estates plummeted 6.2 percent after the winemaker said it was experiencing delays in shipments to China.

Toll-road operator Transurban Group lost 1.7 percent as Australia’s competition regulator raised concerns about the effects on inter-toll road competition if it acquired WestConnex.

Oil and gas producer Santos declined 1.9 percent after it received a $10.36 billion binding takeover offer from U.S.-based Harbour Energy.

On the other hand, strength in commodity prices supported miners, with heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rising 1.3 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Lithium miner Kidman Resources rallied 2.8 percent after it signed a pact to supply lithium hydroxide to electric car maker Tesla Inc.

On the data front, the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.6 percent in April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. That exceeded expectations for 5.5 percent, which would have been unchanged from March.

The economy added 22,600 jobs last month, beating forecasts for 20,000 jobs following the addition of 4,900 jobs in the previous month.

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