US tariffs, China data and politics in focus

In Sydney, the ASX/S&P 200 lost 0.81 percent. Losses were broad-based, with all sectors except gold producers in the red in the morning.

On the corporate earnings front, earnings from Cathay Pacific, Samsonite and Far East Global are expected later in the day.

U.S. stock indexes declined after Secretary of State RexTillerson was fired by U.S. President Donald Trump. Tillerson will give up his duties at the end of Tuesday U.S. hours and leave the role at the end of March.

Trump said that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would take on the role.

“[Tillerson’s] departure has left some worrying that it provides a green light to those in office pushing for more protectionist measures,” said ANZ Research analysts in an early morning note.

Stocks stateside had initially traded higher early in the session after the release of inflation data. Consumer prices rose 0.2 percent last month, meeting forecasts and easing concerns about tighter monetary policy due to inflationary pressures.

Also in focus was news that the Trump administration was looking into a tough trade package, which could include indefinite tariffs and investment restrictions, against China. Trump could impose tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese goods, Reuters reported, citing a source.

Meanwhile, data released on Wednesday showed Japan core machinery orders, a volatile metric, for January rose 8.2 percent on month and 2.9 percent on year, beating forecasts, Reuters reported. The Topix machinery index was down 1.28 percent, with Komatsu lower by 1.73 percent.

In individual stocks, embattled commodities firm Noble Group has requested for a trading halt pending the release of an announcement.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rivals, was mostly steady at 89.693 at 8:20 a.m. HK/SIN. Against the yen, the dollar firmed slightly to trade at 106.67, above the 106.4 handle seen in the last session.

The Australian dollar slipped to trade at $0.7859, near its overnight session lows.

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