Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.11 percent and the broader Topix edged down by 0.07 percent. Automakers traded higher while bank stocks came under pressure.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index shed 0.78 percent, weighed down by declines in the technology sector as index bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 1.5 percent.
Steelmakers were mostly lower, with Posco sliding 1.38 percent.
Greater China markets were mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gave up early gains to trade lower by 0.15 percent. Gains in consumer goods, seen as a defensive sector, were offset by losses in technology stocks, with heavyweight Tencent off by 0.68 percent.
Mainland stock indexes were buoyant, with the Shanghai composite gaining 0.8 percent and the smaller Shenzhen composite rising 0.64 percent.
Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 eased 0.08 percent. The heavily weighted financials sector shed 0.31 percent as all of Australia “Big Four” banks traded lower.
MSCI’s broad index of stocks in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was off by 0.08 percent at 12:04 p.m. HK/SIN. That came after U.S. stocks rose in the last session on gains in technology stocks, which had fallen sharply on Monday.
The tepid moves on Wednesday came as trade tensions, which have recently been in the spotlight, continued to simmer: The U.S. Trade Representative’s office published its proposed list of around 1,300 Chinese imports that could be hit with tariffs.
In response, China said via an embassy statement it opposed the additional tariffs proposed and that “it is only polite to reciprocate,” Reuters reported. China’s ambassador to the U.S. also told CNBC on Wednesday that his country would “fight back” against the latest measures.
“This trade tension story is the biggest uncertainty for China from the external perspective and the story is developing every day,” Haibin Zhu, chief China economist at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“Trade war, or the tariffs, are never a zero sum game. It’s actually a lose-lose situation. China will probably lose more, but the U.S. will also suffer,” he added.
Markets have been on edge about U.S. tariffs triggering retaliatory actions from U.S. trading partners and potentially causing a trade war that would dent global growth.
The dollar held above 106 yen, although the greenback was slightly softer compared to levels around the 106.6 handle seen in the last session. The dollar traded at 106.50 yen by 11:56 a.m. HK/SIN.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six currencies, stood at 90.082.
In corporate news, Elliott Advisors, an arm of activist hedge fund Elliott Management, said it had a stake worth more than $1 billion in three affiliates of Hyundai Motor Group. Reuters reported that Elliott was pushing for corporate governance improvement.
Shares of Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis and Kia Motors rose 3.95 percent, 4.31 percent and 2.68 percent, respectively. Source: CNBC