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Asian Equities Mixed; Chinese Stocks Down Amid Weak PMI Data

Investing.com - Asian equities were mixed in afternoon trade on Thursday, with Chinese stocks underperforming their regional peers as disappointing manufacturing activity in China raised concerns about the global economic slowdown.

The Shanghai Composite was down 0.7% by 1:25 AM ET (06:25 GMT). The Shenzhen Component, which opened higher earlier in the day, fell 0.2%. Hong Kong's Hang Send Index slipped 0.2%.

The fall in Chinese stocks came after data showed that the official Purchasing Manager's Index fell to 49.2 in February, the weakest level since February 2016.

Comments from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were also cited as a headwind for Asian stocks, after he said it was too early to predict an outcome in talks between Washington and Beijing.

"Lighthizer's comments trimmed a bit of the trade resolution hopes which had grown recently, and equities are exposed to some downward pressure," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management, in a Reuters report.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.9% after the country’s factory output posted the biggest decline in a year in January.

Output fell 3.7%, compared with the market forecast for a 2.4% drop.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s KOSPI traded 1.5% lower as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began the second day of talks in Vietnam on nuclear disarmament. Analysts are closely monitoring if any concrete steps would be agreed on later today.

Trump on Wednesday told reporters that he is “in no rush” to find a solution to North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Instead, the President said he “appreciated no testing of nuclear rockets.”

"Speed is not that important to me," Trump said in a brief statement. "I very much appreciate no testing of nuclear rockets, missiles, any of it — very much appreciate it."

"I am in no rush — just we don't want the testing and we've developed something very special with respect to that," Trump added.

Kim, for his part, said "it's too early to tell, but I wouldn't say that I'm pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out."

Separately, the Bank of Korea held interest rates unchanged at 1.75% as expected.

Down under, Australia’s ASX 200 edged up 0.3%.

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