Asia Markets: Stocks in Japan, China slip as Asian markets take cautious start to new quarter

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Asian stocks were mixed in early trading Monday as traders kicked off a new month and quarter.

The Nikkei NIK, -1.28%   lagged early, dropping 0.3% as automakers such as Honda 7267, -1.05%   and Nissan 7201, -1.44%   dropped some 1% on President Donald Trump’s weekend auto-tariff talk. South Korea’s Hyundai 005380, -1.99%   was down similarly, and the Kospi index SEU, -1.68%   was essentially flat along with Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.09%  . New Zealand’s NZX 50 NZ50GR, +0.04%  , among the few indexes that didn’t log decent gains Friday, was up 0.3% at midday.

Japanese stocks maintained their early weakness as U.S.-related worries persisted, with a slump in sectors ranging from food to rubber, airlines and retail. But the weakest big-cap was Hitachi Chemical 4217, -4.25%  , down 3.5% to 21-month lows after disclosing inappropriate data entries related to lead-acid batteries. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan’s Tankan business-sentiment report just missed in regards to big manufacturers but was solidly in positive territory. However, it predicted the dollar will weaken to ¥107.26, 3.5 yen below where the greenback currently trades. A stronger yen is a negative for many Japanese firms’ earnings.

In China, both the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -1.13%   and the Shenzhen Composite 399106, -0.50%  slid, as Chinese tariffs on $34 billion in U.S. goods are scheduled to take effect at the end of the week. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was closed for a holiday.

After logging its biggest gain in nearly 2½ years on Friday, Malaysia’s stock benchmark FBMKLCI, -0.47%   was slightly lower to start Monday’s trading. Shares in Taiwan Y9999, -0.26%   and Singapore STI, -0.65%   also rose in early trading.