Asian stocks sink after Wall Street declines

By JOE McDONALD | Thu, April 18, 2019 12:36 EDT

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks fell Thursday after Wall Street declined despite encouraging Chinese economic data.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong all retreated. Sydney was little-changed.

U.S. stocks fell despite data showing growth in China's gross domestic product held steady in the latest quarter in the face of a tariff war with Washington and consumer spending accelerated.

"The surprisingly robust China GDP data failed to ignite a rally on Wall Street as U.S. investors turn focus to domestic concerns," said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report. He said investors are "increasingly cautious" about possibly misreading economic signals.

Wall Street's slide was led by health care stocks. Investors fear the potential impact on profits from reform ideas being discussed in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail.

Qualcomm led gains in the technology sector. Intel climbed after pulling out of the smartphone modem market. T-Mobile and Sprint slumped on reports the Justice Department is questioning their proposed merger.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.4% to 3,250.03 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.4% to 22,177.75. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5% to 29,972.74 and Seoul's Kospi retreated 0.9% to 2,225.77.

Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 2 points to 6,259.50. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asia rose.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 fell 0.2% to 2,900.45 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost less than 0.1% to 26,449.54. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.1% to 7,996.08.

American investors are poring over company results this week, focusing on profit and revenue outlooks. Analysts expect the first quarter results for S&P 500 companies overall to be the weakest in nearly three years.

US-CHINA TRADE: The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. and Chinese negotiators are planning two more rounds of meetings aimed at ending a tariff war over Beijing's technology ambitions. The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said the two sides are aiming for a signing ceremony in late May or early June. The two sides have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods, rattling global financial markets. Washington and other trading partners say Beijing's plans for state-led creation of Chinese competitors in robotics and other technologies violate its market-opening commitments.

US ECONOMY: The Federal Reserve says the economy was expanding at a moderate pace in March and early April, despite uncertainty caused by trade tensions and Midwest flooding. The Fed's "beige book" on economic conditions said weakness remained, especially in sluggish consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. The report will form the basis for discussion when central bank officials meet April 30-May 1 to discuss interest rates.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 8 cents to $63.68 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 29 cents on Wednesday to close at $63.76. Brent crude, used to price international oils, sank 19 cents to $71.43 per barrel in London. It declined 10 cents the previous session to $71.62.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 111.94 yen from Wednesday's 112.05 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1295 from $1.1299.

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