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Asian Equities Extend Losses Despite Tariffs Exemptions

Asian equities extended losses in afternoon trade – Asian equities extended losses in afternoon trade on Friday, although U.S. president Trump temporarily excluded six countries and the European Union from higher import duties on steel and aluminum.

The six countries included Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Canada and Mexico.

"I have determined that the necessary and appropriate means to address the threat to the national security posed by imports from steel articles from these countries is to continue these discussions and to exempt steel articles imports from these countries from the tariff, at least at this time," according to the proclamation published by the White House on Thursday.

The news came after Trump launched the long-promised anti-China tariffs on Thursday.

A presidential memorandum signed by Trump said the U.S. would target up to $60 billion in Chinese goods that are “misappropriation of U.S. intellectual property” with tariffs.

“I view them (China) as a friend,” Trump said as he made his announcement on Thursday. “We have spoken to China and we are in the middle of negotiations.”

In response, China unveiled plans on Friday for reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion of imports from the U.S. China planned to add 15% tariffs on U.S. steel pipes, fruit, wine and other products, the country’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement, adding that the country also planned to add 25% tariffs on pork and recycled aluminum.

"China doesn't hope to be in a trade war, but is not afraid of engaging in one," the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement.

The Shanghai Composite and Shenzhen Component extended their losses from the morning and plunged more than 4% at 2:15am ET (06:15 GMT) following the development. China urged the U.S. to resolve any trade disputes via dialogue, stressing that the country is not afraid of a trade war, and that it is ready to take legal actions against the U.S. under the WTO framework.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dived 3.1%. Stocks that are most exposed to the U.S. took the biggest hit.

WH Group Ltd (HK:0288), which bought U.S.-based pig giant Smithfield Foods in 2013 slid 10%. Apple supplier AAC Technologies Holdings Inc (HK:2018) fell more than 5%.

Index heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:0700) fell as much as 8% earlier in the day after its largest shareholders Naspers sold a 2% stake in the company. Tencent regained some ground in afternoon trading but was still down 5.3%. Casino Operator Wynn Macau Ltd (HK:1128)slid 3.5% after former Wynn Resorts CEO Steven Wynn sold his remaining shares in the company.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei closed 4.7% lower. The country’s CPI came in at 1% in February, matching the median estimate but still far away from its target of 2%.

Bank of Japan's Deputy Governor Masazumi Wakatabe said on Friday that the data showed inflationary pressure is insufficient and that he wanted to maintain the current policy regime to meet the central bank's 2% target.

Elsewhere, the KOSPI was down 3.3%. Reports that Vietnam and South Korea agreed to raise their bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2020 caught some attention. Samsung Electronics (KS:005930) made headlines after the company announced a 50:1 stock split that was previously announced in January and the appointment of new directors.

Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed 2.0% lower.

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