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Asia stocks slide as US-China trade war intensifies

Fresh tariffs to hit wide assortment of industries and consumer products

Tokyo stocks fell by more than 400 points for a moment early on May 14 as investors reacted to the U.S.'s ratcheting up of its trade war with China. 

TOKYO -- Asian equities fell sharply on Tuesday after the U.S. announced a new round of high tariffs targeting $300 billion of Chinese exports to the U.S.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday announced a 25% levy on more than 3,800 items that would apply to $43.2 billion worth of smartphones and $37.5 billion worth of laptop computers.

With the news that the Sino-American trade war is encompassing more consumer products, Japanese stocks followed New York shares in taking a sharp fall. The Nikkei 225 average opened at 20,870.77, down 320.23 points, or 1.53% from Monday's close. Later in the morning, shares were down more than 400 points, to their lowest level in three months.

After a slight rebound, the market closed at 21,067.23, down 0.59%. The Nikkei average fell for the seventh consecutive day -- a losing streak not seen in more than three years.

Shares of companies with higher exposure to China like Yaskawa Electric fell sharply along with smartphone parts makers such as Murata Manufacturing.

The stock price for SoftBank Group also fell sharply, at one point dipping more than 6%, to 9,890 yen, its lowest level in three months. Investors rushed to sell their SoftBank holdings out of concerns that the $100 billion Vision Fund, which had spread nearly $60 billion across 69 companies by the end of March, would suffer from market turmoil and its exposure to Uber, whose stock has had a lackluster debut in New York.

The Japanese yen, considered a haven currency, strengthened to 109.05 against the dollar on Tuesday morning before moving back to around 109.62.

Other Asian stock markets also fell. At one point, South Korea's Kospi Index was down 1% from Monday's close, although it later turned up by 0.13% from where it finished the previous day. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.49%, while the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index was down 0.69%. Hong Kong's market was closed Monday for a holiday.

The turmoil began overnight in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed as much as 719 points, closing down 617 points below Friday's finish and sinking to a three-month low of 25,324.

On the U.S. bond market, investors flocked to another haven asset, U.S. Treasurys. The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond fell to 2.41% at one point, its lowest reading since the end of March.

The U.S. Trade Representative has set the public comment deadline for June 24, with a public hearing scheduled for June 17. The dates suggest the new tariffs could be put in place after July.

Nikkei staff writers Eri Sugiura and Jada Nagumo contributed to this report.

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