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Asian Equities Slip on Continued Trade War Fears; NPC In Focus

Asian stocks traded lower in morning trading – Asian stocks traded lower in morning trading on Monday, hovering near 2-week lows as comments from the U.S. president Trump continued to cause unease across the region.

Sunday’s Italian elections also caught some attention as exit polls indicated that a center-right bloc would gain the most seats in parliament, in line with market expectations.

China was in focus on Monday as this year’s National People’s Congress opened in Beijing today. Premier Li Keqiang said that monetary policies would be “prudent” and “neutral” this year, while CPI and GDP growth are targeted at around 3% and 6.5% respectively. Li also noted that regulation for shadow banking and web finance would be improved, while the highly anticipated Greater Bay Area development plan would be unveiled later this year.

The Mainland Chinese markets were mixed, with the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.28% but the SZSE Component gained 0.15% by 9:30pm ET.

Japan’s Nikkei traded 1.02% lower with a strengthening yen being cited as catalyst for the selling in local equities. The safe-haven currency got a lift as risk sentiment soured amid fears of a global trade war. Steel makers and other exports underperformed the region in morning trade.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also traded 1.5% lower. Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:0700) made headlines as the company's CEO Pony Ma said WeChat has 18 million global users and urged the Chinese government to introduce an ID system that would link multiple sets of travel documents with a mobile phone.

Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 also slipped 0.65%. Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was reportedly seeking to push for an Australian exemption to the tariffs on steel and aluminum exports, despite reports over the weekend that suggested Trump had no intention to exclude the countries’ allies from the tariffs. Although not directional drivers, Australia’s monthly building approvals and quarterly company profits data both came in well ahead of forecasts.

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