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Equities

Nikkei Asia300 Index falls amid reports US may impose tariffs on Chinese products

China Life Insurance, Total Access, Air China decline

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan fell Wednesday amid media reports that the U.S. is looking to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index slipped 0.4% to 1,480.14. Hong Kong-shares of China Life Insurance lost 1.1% after reporting a 19% decline in accumulated premium income for two months ended Feb. 28. Thailand's Total Access Communication declined 3.7% following the resignation of its chief executive officer. Air China edged lower by 0.4%, paring its year-to-date advance to 20%. Late Tuesday, the carrier reported an 11% increase in February passenger traffic.

Wednesday's losses came after Reuters reported that U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports. The report, which cited two people who had discussed the issue with the Trump administration, said that while the tariffs would primarily be targeted at the technology and telecommunication sector, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products. Moreover, CNBC, citing a source, reported that Trump is considering a trade package which includes indefinite tariffs and investment restrictions on China.

The reports will likely further increase investor concerns of a trade war between the major world economies. Trump last week imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S., despite warnings from its trading partners that the move could lead to a trade war.

There was more negative news for equity investors as Trump fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a move analysts said suggested a tougher U.S. stance on foreign policies and on trade.

U.S. markets, which closed lower overnight, had something to cheer early in session after the pace of increase in consumer prices in the worlds' largest economy slowed. The U.S. CPI rose by 0.2% month-on-month in February, compared with the 0.5% pace in the prior month.

On Wednesday, China's February industrial output and fixed investment data came in better-than-expected, while retail sales were a tad below projections.

In country indexes complied by Nikkei, China and South Korea declined 0.3% each, and Hong Kong lost 0.6%. Taiwan fell 0.8%, while India was little changed.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies ended 0.2% lower.

--Nimesh Vora

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