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Asian Stocks Decline After Fed; China Data in Focus

Asian stocks were mostly lower in afternoon trade on Thursday – Asian stocks were mostly lower in afternoon trade on Thursday, as the Federal Reserve raised rates and upgraded their forecasts to four rate hikes in 2018. China’s data were also in focus as the country’s May industrial output and retail sales both missed expectations, while fixed-asset investment’s growth in the first five months were also well below forecasts.

In Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Component were down 0.3% and 0.7% respectively at 1:30AM ET (05:30AM ET).

The country’s industrial output grew 6.8% year-on-year in May, missed expectations of a 6.9% growth, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement on Thursday.

Industrial output, officially called industrial value added, is used to measure the activity of designated large enterprises with annual turnover of at least 20 million yuan (about 3 million U.S. dollars).

Meanwhile, Retail sales rose 8.5% from a year earlier, versus the general consensus of an increase of 9.6% and compared with a rise of 9.4% in April.

Fixed-asset investment growth also slowed to 6.1% in the first five months, well below the forecasts of 7.0%, which was the same pace as in January-April.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also fell 0.9% amid concerns about U.S. threats to impose tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with his top trade advisers later this week to discuss whether to activate tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods, a senior Trump administration official said.

Citing people familiar with the revisions, reports on Thursday suggested the list might be slightly smaller than the initial tariff list which targeting $50 billion of Chinese goods.

“China could be a little bit upset about trade because we are very strongly clamping down on trade,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday.

ZTE Corp (HK:0763) received some focus as its shares jumped as much as 3.7% after the telecommunication company proposed a $10.7 billion financing plan.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 traded 0.6% lower, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.1%. Data released on Thursday showed the Australian unemployment rate in May eased to 5.4% from 5.6% in April.

Looking ahead, markets focus now moved on to the European Central Bank’s policy meeting on Thursday, which looks set to begin the process to end the region’s quantitative-easing program. The central bank is not expected to make any changes with the rates. The Bank of Japan is also scheduled to report on Friday.

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