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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks little changed as investors await key US-China trade talks

Samsung Electronics falls before preliminary earnings

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan ended little changed on Monday amid doubts over the success of upcoming U.S.-China trade talks.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index edged 0.03% lower to close at 1,245.04.

Ahead of the high-level U.S.-China trade talks in Washington later this week, Bloomberg reported that Beijing was reluctant to offer a broad trade deal to Washington. Citing people familiar with discussions, the report said that senior Chinese officials, in meetings with U.S. visitors to Beijing in recent weeks, had indicated that the topics they're willing to discuss had narrowed considerably. China's top negotiator Vice-Premier Liu He, who will be in Washington this week, had told visiting dignitaries that an offer by Beijing will not include commitments on reforming Chinese industrial policy or subsidies, the report added.

DBS said that odds of a trade deal this week "remain low" amid significant difference between the two sides. While Washington wanted a complete trade deal, Beijing would be unwilling to do so unless the U.S. is willing to roll back existing tariffs, it added.

U.S. equity index futures declined Monday, indicating that Wall Street is likely to pull back after Friday's advance. The S&P 500 Index climbed about 1.5% on Friday following the U.S. jobs report that showed that the unemployment rate dropped to a 50-year low of 3.5% and U.S. employers added 136,000 jobs last month, only slightly less than the 145,000 estimated. Further, August job additions were revised higher and average earnings growth was less than expected.

U.S. manufacturing and services data released earlier last week had raised fears that the economy was slowing down significantly. The ISM manufacturing index had posted its worst reading in 10 years and the services gauge was at a three-year low.

In movers on the A300 on Monday, Samsung Electronics slid 0.5%, a day before the South Korean technology company reports preliminary September quarter earnings. Analysts polled by Bloomberg estimate that the company will post an operating income of 6.9 trillion won ($5.7 billion) compared with 17 trillion won a year earlier.

Keppel Corp. advanced 1.7%. The Singaporean conglomerate said Monday its Keppel Offshore & Marine unit had agreed to a settlement over the status of six semi-submersible drilling rigs being built for Sete Brasil -- bringing clarity to a long-standing dispute worth billions of dollars.

Keppel had stopped work on the rigs in 2015 after Sete Brasil, an oil platforms and rigs provider linked to Petrobras, stopped payments amid a corruption scandal involving the Brazilian national oil company. The orders were reportedly worth around $4.9 billion and Keppel had received progress payments of over $1 billion.

In Mumbai, Mahindra & Mahindra fell 2% after the Indian automaker sales volume declined by 21% last month from a year ago.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises ended 6.2% higher, reversing a 14% plunge in initial trade after the Indian media company revealed in an investor call over the weekend that around 90% of the promoters' shareholding was pledged with financial institutions.

--Nimesh Vora

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