KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- Malaysia and Singapore shares fell for the sixth straight day and trading volume tapered as investors retreated to the side lines awaiting fresh cues from a simmering trade spat between the U.S. and China.
The FBM KLCI ended 0.6% lower at 1652.63. Press Metal Aluminium Holdings was the biggest loser on the Malaysian index after shedding 3.3%. The Straits Times Index meanwhile closed down 0.4% at 3059.28. Jardine Strategic Holdings led decliners after dropping 2.8% on the Singaporean gauge.
"The Malaysian ringgit continues to struggle dearly today on the back of sluggish oil prices and equity market outflows as investors remain in de-risk mode," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia trading at currency broker OANDA. The ringgit fell 0.3% against the U.S. dollar.
Volume in both markets were lower than usual with a little over 1 billion shares traded on the Singapore Exchange, while about 1.4 billion shares changed hands in Malaysia.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index was little changed. Markets are awaiting follow-ups to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer at Huawei Technologies, a move that has reignited worries of denting potential progress in mending Sino-American trade relations.
Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities on suspicion the Chinese telecommunications-equipment maker violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. A Canadian provincial court that was weighing whether to grant her bail was adjourned on Monday without a decision.
Meanwhile, China's Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke on the phone Tuesday about future trade talks, according to a statement posted on China's Ministry of Commerce website.
Oil and gas stocks declined in Malaysia and Singapore as crude prices retreated below $60 a barrel amid concerns over slowing demand. Exploration and services firm Sapura Energy fell 4.4% in Malaysia, while offshore rig-builder Keppel Corp. fell 0.8% in Singapore.
Plantation stocks declined as palm oil futures slipped 1.6% to 2,009 ringgit a ton on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange. Sime Darby Plantation, the world's largest palm oil producer by acreage, fell 0.9% in Malaysia.
In corporate news, Great Eastern Holding slipped 1.1% in Singapore after the insurance arm of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. announced its acquisition of PT QBE General Insurance Indonesia for $28 million.
Hong Leong Asia lost close to 1% amid management changes with Tan Eng Kwee replacing Philip Ting Sii Tien as chief executive of the industrial-and-machinery company effective immediately.
Top Glove fell 0.2% amid investigations by Malaysia's federal labour department for violations of some labor laws after it found the glovemaker breached the legal working hour limit.
- Joannah Perez and Jason Ng