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Asian shares decline on weak China data

Asian shares decline on weak China data

Asian shares traded in negative territory on Monday in late morning session after reports showed an unexpected slump in Chinese exports and slower growth in Japan than economists had projected.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 1% to 138 as of 11:06 a.m. in Tokyo.  Japan’s Topix index fell 0.8% after the nation’s economy grew an annualised 0.7% from the previous quarter, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo, less than a preliminary estimate of 1%. The current-account deficit widened to ¥1.59 trillion ($15.4 billion), the largest in data back to 1985, the finance ministry said.

South Korea’s Kospi index and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.9%. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slid 0.3% from a record high. Taiwan’s Taiex Index and the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index declined 0.6%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index slipped 0.5%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 1.3%.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.3% as the yuan fell after the central bank cut its reference rate by 0.18%, the most since July 2012. China's exports tumbled 18.1% while imports rose 10.1% from a year earlier, producing a trade deficit of $23 billion for the month of February, data released on Saturday showed. That compared with market expectations in a Reuters poll of a rise of 6.8% in exports, an 8% rise in imports and a trade surplus of $14.5 billion.

In corporate news, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Australia’s No. 3 producer of iron ore, plunged 8.8% in Sydney after futures on the metal used to make steel fell into a bear market.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), a mining company that gets about 29% of sales from China, lost 3.7%.

Malaysian Air declined 10% in Kuala Lumpur, set for a record low, after one of its planes bound for Beijing vanished two days ago with 239 people on board.

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