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Nikkei Asia300 tumbles as Italian politics dampen mood

China's country gauge drops 1.6% as US readies list of import tariffs

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks fell on Wednesday, as risk assets across the globe retreated amid mounting worries over political turmoil in Italy.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index declined 1.8% to 1,372.51. The yield on U.S. Treasurys slid on Tuesday to levels not seen since early April as investors bought into top-rated government debt as political uncertainty deepened after the nation's recently-nominated Prime Minister Carlo Cottarelli reportedly failed to secure support from major political parties. The specter of a repeat-election has fuelled speculation of the possibility of a de-facto referendum on Italy's role in the European Union. Italy's benchmark equity gauge the FTSE MIB edged 0.1% higher on Wednesday after a 2.7% drop on Tuesday.

The country gauge for China shed 1.6% after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday said it will announce a final list of $50 billion in Chinese imports that will carry a 25% tariff. The announcement came after weeks of discussions on import tariffs between the U.S. and China as the two economies seek to reach an agreement on bilateral trade.

Separately, investors await MSCI's inclusion of A-shares in its regional and global indexes on June 1, a move that is expected to boost inflows into Chinese equities.

Social media-and-gaming company Tencent Holdings fell 1.7% in Hong Kong. Tencent-backed Chinese electric-vehicle startup NIO has confidentially filed for an initial public offering in the U.S., Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Agricultural Bank of China slipped 1.7%. The lender said the China Securities Regulatory Commission approved its application for the nonpublic issuance of A-shares.

Heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 3.5% in Seoul. Samsung Life Insurance said it will sell 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion) worth of its shares in Samsung Electronics, while Samsung Fire & Marine said it will sell 206 billion won worth of Samsung Electronics' shares.

Singapore Airlines fell 1.8% amid broad market losses. On Wednesday it said it plans to launch the world's longest commercial flight -a non-stop service between Singapore and New York starting in October.

AirAsia, Asia's largest discount carrier by fleet size, tumbled 7% in Kuala Lumpur. India's federal investigating agency registered a case against its chief executive officer over alleged violation of rules to secure a license for its Indian joint venture to operate international flights, an official at the Central Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday.

CIMB Group Holdings, Malaysia's second-largest bank by assets, declined 2.6%. The lender on Wednesday said its net profit rose 10.6% in the first quarter from a year earlier, helped by decline in operating expenses, lower bad-loan provisions and a one-off disposal gain.

Hong Leong Financial Group, the financial services arm of Malaysian tycoon Quek Leng Chan, shed 1.7% amid broad market losses. The company on Wednesday said net profit rose 20% in the fiscal third quarter from a year earlier, thanks to higher contribution from commercial banking and insurance divisions.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index for Southeast Asian companies lost 2% on Wednesday.

--V. Phani Kumar

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