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Asian Equities Fall as Geopolitical Risks Weigh

Asian equities were mostly lower in afternoon trade – Asian equities were mostly lower in afternoon trade on Thursday as the threat of U.S. military action in Syria escalated the tensions in the Middle East.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about Russia and his warning of preparations to attack Syria on Wednesday were cited as catalyst for the selling in equities.

Later in the day, Trump reportedly did not settle on a plan after meeting with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The twist in the Syria crisis development improved market sentiment on Thursday morning and drove gold prices down.

"I don't think we are heading into the World War Three but should there be a direct collision between the U.S. and Russia for the first time, that's the sort of headline that would plunge stock prices," said Hidenori Suezawa, financial market analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Component lost 0.4% and 0.2% respectively by 1:15PM ET (05:15 GMT), while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.4%.

China's central bank governor, Yi Gang, said on Thursday at the Boao forum that first-quarter Chinese economic data has been a little better than expected. The data is due on April 17.

Meanwhile, Reports that China's ambassador Jia Guide warned on Wednesday that it would be disrespectful for the United States to drag Latin America into its trade dispute with Beijing garnered some attention.

"We truly despise the carrot and stick approach," Jia said in response to Trump's threats to reduce aid or impose tariffs on Latin American nations that do not do more to further efforts to create more U.S. jobs.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.1%. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda on Thursday reiterated his stance to maintain the central bank's stimulus program to achieve the bank's 2% inflation target.

Elsewhere, South Korea's KOSPI edged up 0.1% as the country’s central bank held interest rates steady as expected. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3%.

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