HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares were little changed after a choppy morning session on Wednesday, as investors appeared to be on the sidelines ahead of an impending escalation in the U.S.-China tariff war.
The Hang Seng Index was unchanged at 25,665.51 by noon after trading in a 225-point range through the session. The gauge changed directions at least 10 times. Thirty-one of the index's 50 constituents traded higher by the lunch break, with China Mengniu Dairy rising 3.6% to lead gains ahead of its first-half results. Among decliners, drugmakers CSPC Pharmaceutical Group and Sino Biopharmaceutical shed 4.7% and 2.6%, respectively.
A host of new punitive U.S.-China trade tariffs are set to take effect on Sunday. China last week announced plans to impose new tariffs of 5% to 10% on $75 billion in American goods from Sept. 1, a move that was in retaliation to U.S. plans to impose 10% levies on up to $300 billion of Chinese goods. The U.S. has separately said some of those tariffs will take effect only in December. U.S. President Donald Trump has also threatened that the 10% tariff rate might be increased to 15%.
Following last week's tariff announcements, Trump on Monday indicated that a trade deal with China was possible, saying he believed Beijing was sincere in its desire to reach an agreement.
Still, uncertainty continues to plague market sentiment.
One thing to be sure of is that there is a "high chance" the Hang Seng Index will drop lower, said Stanley Chik, head of research at Bright Smart Securities.
The U.S.-China trade war has evolved, investors are pessimistic about mass protests in Hong Kong and the corporate earnings outlook is cautious, he added.
In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.3% by midday. The yuan traded onshore rose 0.1% against the dollar to 7.1570.
Meanwhile, the State Council, China's cabinet, on Tuesday announced it is exploring methods to boost consumption in Asia's largest economy, including easing restrictions on car purchases to support auto sales.
Chinese telecommunications-equipment maker ZTE added 1% after reporting a profit of 1.47 billion yuan ($205.3 million) for the first half of the year, compared with a loss a year ago. Revenue for the period rose 13.1% to 44.61 billion yuan. The company said it expects to report a profit of 3.8 billion yuan to 4.6 billion yuan for the nine months ending Sept. 30, after posting a loss in the year-earlier period.
Chinese conglomerate Fosun International jumped 3.9% following a 10.9% increase in first-half profit and a 57.4% surge in revenue.
Shimao Property Holdings climbed 4.1% after reporting a 19.5% increase in net profit for the first half of the year and about a 33% jump in revenue.
Property developer Kaisa Group Holdings advanced 1.8% following a 67.1% jump in first-half net profit.
Mulsanne Group Holding slid 8.5% after the clothing retailer reported an 18.8% drop in first-half net profit despite a 10.6% increase in revenue.
Gas distributor Kunlun Energy added 3.8% after reporting a 1.7% increase in first-half net profit and an 8% increase in revenue.
Building materials company BBMG climbed 4.1% following a 26.6% increase in first-half net profit and a 26% rise in revenue.
-- Benny Kung