Japan‘s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.7 percent in early trading to 21,439.64. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged up nearly 0.3 percent to 6,262.20. South Korea’s Kospi was slightly lower at 2,175.26. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped nearly 0.5 percent to 28,902.43, while the Shanghai Composite was also down 0.5 percent at 3,087.41.
On Wall Street, health care companies led U.S. stocks broadly lower Wednesday, giving the market its third straight loss. Technology and energy stocks also bore the brunt of the selling, offsetting gains in materials and utilities companies. Several retailers also rose. Smaller companies fell more than the rest of the market.
The S&P 500 dropped 18.20 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,771.45.
The benchmark index is now on track for its first weekly decline since January. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 133.17 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,673.46. The Nasdaq composite lost 70.44 points, or 0.9 percent, to 7,505.92. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 31.46 points, or 2 percent, to 1,536.82.
Disappointing economic reports, uncertainty over trade and fears of a slowdown in economic growth have been weighing on the market the past couple weeks.
“Regional stock markets will likely endure a tough start to the day following the dismal showing overnight by Wall Street. World growth and tariff fears are likely to be on investors’ lips and will cap rallies in stocks during the Asian session,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
At times, the market has also drawn optimism over the prospects that the U.S. and China will resolve their trade dispute. U.S. and Chinese officials have hinted that some kind of agreement could be finalized by the end of March, with President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping possibly meeting to formalize the deal at Trump’s private club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
Last year, Trump imposed a series of tariffs on Chinese goods in hopes of pressuring Beijing to support more favorable terms for the United States. In June, the White House levied import taxes of 25 percent on $50 billion of Chinese imports. It followed in September with 10 percent duties on an additional $200 billion.
Asian investors were also staying cautious ahead of a European Central Bank board meeting later in the global day.
ENERGY: U.S. crude gained 15 cents to $56.37 a barrel. It slid 0.6 percent to settle at $56.22 a barrel in New York Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was also higher, adding 29 cents to $66.28 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 111.66 yen from 111.86 yen Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1308 from $1.1304.