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Asian Equities Slide Amid Fresh Trade Concerns

Investing.com - Asian equities slid in morning trade on Friday amid renewed concerns over Sino-U.S. trade relations.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, which returned to trade after being offline since Tuesday due to the Lunar New Year holidays, was down 0.7% by 9:30 PM ET (02:30 GMT). Chinese markets remained closed.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slid 1.8%. Sony Corp (T:6758) jumped almost 5% after the company announced its first-ever share buyback on Friday, worth 100 billion yen ($910 million).

The buyback will be equivalent to 2.36% of its outstanding shares, the company added. "Our financial health has improved enough to conduct the repurchases," a Sony spokesman said.

Meanwhile, government data showed on Friday that Japan’s household spending rebounded 0.1% year-on-year in December, although the gain fell short of the expected 0.8% rise.

South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 1.1%.

Down under, Australia’s ASX 200 edged down 0.5%, with the energy sub-index underperformed as oil stocks declined on the back of Thursday's drop in crude prices.

Santos Ltd (AX:STO) shares fell 4%, Woodside Petroleum Ltd (AX:WPL) slipped almost 2%, and Beach Energy Ltd (AX:BPT) plunged 9%.

The fall in Asian stocks on Friday came amid renewed uncertainties over whether China and the U.S. could reach a trade agreement before a deadline on March 1.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that he would not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March deadline.

Earlier this week, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said there is a "pretty sizable distance to go" before the two sides could reach an agreement.

"The president has indicated that he's optimistic with respect to a potential trade deal," Kudlow said on Fox Business. "But we've got a pretty sizable distance to go here."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also noted this week that "wide range of issues" remains to be worked out, although he said the talks so far have been “very productive.”

China and the U.S. have until the start of March to strike a trade deal. Otherwise, additional tariffs on Chinese goods take effect.

The U.S. charges against Huawei also undermined the prospect of a successful trade deal, reports said. Citing three sources, Politico reported that Trump is expected to sign an executive order next week banning Chinese telecommunication equipment from U.S. wireless networks.

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