Asian Stocks Lower on Wednesday

(AP) -- Most Asia-Pacific stock markets edged lower as trade tensions rose between Washington and Beijing, but equities in mainland China were the surprising exception as investors took a sanguine view on the U.S. tariff plans.

Equities in South Korea, Australia and Singapore fell after initial optimism generated by a late overnight surge in U.S. tech stocks gave way to renewed concerns over trade.

The Trump administration's details of plans for tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China gave investors in Asia another reminder of the potential for an escalation of trade tensions, though the targeted areas had been largely flagged in advance.

"The U.S. appears to be targeting the industries China wants to grow. China is going to take countermeasures for sure," said Tomoichiro Kubota, senior market analyst at Matsui Securities.

South Korea's Kospi was off 0.8%, with Samsung Electronics down 1.5%. Japanese stocks gave up earlier gains of up to 0.6% and were recently flat. While Japanese products are unlikely to be directly hit by the latest U.S. moves, share price falls in a company like sensor maker Keyence, down 3.4%, suggest big investors are becoming more concerned about global trade implications, Mr. Kubota said.

Australian shares were down for a fourth straight session as big banks contributed to a 0.3% fall.

Equities in mainland China bucked the trend, as investors concluded that Beijing would likely keep its response restrained and engage with Washington in deal-making.

China's Commerce Ministry said Beijing was preparing to adopt countermeasures of "the same intensity and same scale" as the U.S.

The Shanghai Composite was up 0.8% with the Shenzhen Composite up 0.6%. "I remain hopeful that the U.S. and China can reach a deal that suits both countries, in the coming months," like they did in 1995 when similar tensions rose, said David Millhouse, head of China Research for Forsyth Barr Asia.

China could potentially agree to import more agricultural produce and liquefied natural gas from the U.S. as demand rises in the coming year, helping ease trade tensions, he said.

The latest trade tensions are likely to encourage Asia-Pacific investors to focus on stocks that are more dependent on regional demand, said Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia Pacific at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.