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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks little changed as global growth worries linger

Cathay Pacific slides after announcing deal to buy HK Express

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan were little changed on Wednesday, as weak Chinese economic data reinforced worries of a global slowdown.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index ended almost unchanged at 1,310.66.

Investors continued to weigh the possibilities of a recession in the U.S. as the yield curve in the world's largest economy remained inverted even as long-dated yields recovered slightly. Meanwhile, concerns about a slowdown in Asia's largest economy lingered. Data released Wednesday showed industrial profits at large-scale Chinese companies fell 14% from a year earlier in January and February after rising 10.3% in the year ended in December.

"Looking ahead, industrial profit growth may stay soft this year," analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote in a note, adding, however, that a favorable base effect in March could help with a better year-over-year industrial profit growth.

While the data fueled some bets of further monetary and fiscal stimulus from China, some analysts remained circumspect about the impact of such measures.

For the manufacturing sector to "convincingly stabilize, we need to see positive outcomes from the U.S.-China trade talks," Hussein Sayed, the chief market strategist at FXTM, wrote in a note.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are due to meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing this week for further trade talks. Liu is scheduled to travel to Washington next week for another round of negotiations.

Cathay Pacific Airways fell 2.5% on Wednesday in Hong Kong. The airline announced its foray into the low-cost airline business with the HK$4.93 billion ($628.2 million) acquisition of Hong Kong Express Airways from HNA Group.

Budget carrier AirAsia slipped 1.5% in Kuala Lumpur. The airline may consider developing a new hub in Macau, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Group Chief Executive Tony Fernandes. Separately, in a slide presentation posted on LinkedIn, Fernandes said the company is committed to paying a special dividend every two years.

Astro Malaysia Holdings declined 2.6% after reporting a 35% decline in fourth-quarter net profit.

Shares of Fosun International jumped 8.8% in Hong Kong after the Chinese conglomerate reported an increase in 2018 net profit and signaled it would consider spinning off more of its units.

Electric carmaker BYD fell 2.4% in after Chinese authorities on Tuesday said they are cutting subsidies for new energy vehicles. The company is due to report earnings for 2018 later on Wednesday.

Dongfeng Motor Group, also scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday, climbed 1.2%.

Shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries fell 1.4% in Seoul. The company said Petrobras Americas has filed a lawsuit against it with a U.S. court, claiming 283 billion won ($249.3 million) in damages, according to Reuters.

--Suzannah Benjamin

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