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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks fall, ending three-day winning streak

Losses came despite better-than-expected China trade data

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan shrugged off better-than-expected China trade data to end a three-day winning run on Thursday.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies declined 0.1% to 1,298.96.

The losses on the index came despite a positive surprise on China's January imports and exports. Asia's largest economy's dollar-denominated exports rose 9.1% in January, while imports dropped by 1.5%. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 3.2% fall in exports and a 10% decline in imports. The upbeat trade data comes after a slew of disappointing economic releases out of China and concerns over the impact of the current trade dispute with the U.S.

"Goods exports recovered in January, surprisingly, possibly in part inflated by the timing of the Chinese New Year," said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics. "Imports fell again, but less than in December and compared to a very challenging base. Indeed, our estimates suggest a substantial sequential bounce back."

On the ongoing trade talks between the two nations in Beijing, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday reportedly said they were going "very well." His positive assessment came a day after he signaled willingness to extend a March 1 deadline for increasing tariffs on Chinese shipments. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. is said to be weighing postponing China tariffs by 60 days.

Last December, leaders of both the countries had agreed to suspend any fresh round of tariffs for a period of 90 days, which ends on March 1.

High-level trade talks began in Beijing earlier in the day and will conclude Friday, according to China's state news agency Xinhua. These talks follow working-level negotiations held since the beginning of the week.

The talks on Thursday are being led by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Among movers on Thursday, South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction tumbled 9.9%. The company on Wednesday reported a loss of 422 billion won ($376 million), according to Yonhap News Agency.

Korea Aerospace Industries jumped 5.5% after the company reportedly swung back to profit in 2018. It reported a profit of 48.6 billion won in 2018 compared with a loss of 236 billion won in the previous year.

Hong Kong shares of Chinese carmaker Guangzhou Automobile Group slipped 0.3% after reporting a 0.2% decline in January total auto sales volume. Electric vehicle maker BYD rose 3.2% following a 3.7% increase in January sales. China Overseas Land & Investment added 2.2% after reporting a 12.5% increase in contracted sales last month.

ComfortDelGro advanced 2.1% after the Singaporean land transport operator posted a slight increase in net profit for 2018.

Jollibee Foods advanced 1.6% after the Philippine company reported a 12% rise in December quarter net profit.

Meanwhile, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia ended 0.2% higher. Data released by the nation's central bank on Thursday showed Malaysia's gross domestic product grew 4.7% between October and December when compared with the same quarter last year, quickening from the third-quarter's 4.4% pace.

--Nimesh Vora

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