Investing.com – Asian equities retreated in afternoon trade on Wednesday, following overnight weakness in U.S. stocks amid fears of rising U.S. protectionism as President Trump reportedly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unexpectedly on Twitter. Meanwhile, data coming out from China were also in focus as both industrial output and fixed-asset investment for January-February grew higher than expected.
Reports that the U.S. is planning to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports were also cited as headwind for equities. U.S. main consumer price index and the core gauge rose 0.2% from January, in line with expectations.
In China, Industrial output rose 7.2% y/y in the first two months of the year, beating the general consensus of 6.2%. Fixed-asset investment also came in higher than expected, jumped 7.9% y/y versus the estimate of 7.0%.
Meanwhile, retail sales growth for the month was marginally slower than expected, rising 9.7% compared to the estimated 9.8%. The impacts of the data on regional equities seemed to be limited however, with the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Component both trading 0.4% lower by 1:40am ET. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.3%, snapped a 4-day advance.
Japan's Nikkei was down 0.9% at the close. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied he and his wife were involved in the discount land sale scandal. The country’s core machinery orders rose 8.2% in January and beat expectations of a 5.6% increase, a sign that capital spending would continue contributing to economic growth. Automaker Toyota Motor Corp (T:7203) received some focus as it was reportedly planning to raise base monthly salaries by around 1,300 yen ($12.18) starting next month. The increase was less than the 3,000 yen demanded by its union however. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s comment received moderate attention as he said he is confident the central bank could engineer a smooth exit from the easy monetary policy.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s finance minister Kim Dong-yeon said the lack of jobs growth is the country’s “biggest economic issues,” adding that youth unemployment problem would likely gets more serious.
Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.7% at the close. New Zealand GDP data is due Thursday.
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