BEIJING -- Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday as uneasy investors watched for signs of progress on U.S.-China trade after Wall Street slid.
Shanghai retreated, Tokyo advanced and Hong Kong was unchanged.
Investors who worry the U.S.-Chinese tariff war will drag the global economy into recession were left guessing after President Donald Trump's conflicting comments on trade talks.
Markets rose after Trump said Monday said Beijing was ready to negotiate seriously following two weekend phone calls. But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman couldn't confirm any exchange had taken place.
Investors are "finding it difficult to put a finger as to where the ongoing U.S.-China trade issue is headed," said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. "The saying that we are a tweet (from Trump) away from the next trade escalation between U.S. and China had certainly grown to become the broad view."
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4% to 2,889.66 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.1% to 20,478.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 1 point at 25,663.14.
Seoul's Kospi gained 0.4% to 1,932.08 and Sydney's S&P-ASX was 0.1% higher at 6,478.40. Taiwan, New Zealand and Jakarta advanced while Singapore retreated.
On Wall Street, investors shifted money from stocks to U.S. government bonds, gold and other traditional safe-haven assets.
UBS, the largest wealth manager in the world, recommended that customers reduce their exposure to stocks, the first time the bank has done so since the depths of Europe's debt crisis in 2012.
The yield in the 10-year Treasury bond below that of the two-year Treasury, an unusual phenomenon that has correctly predicted the five most recent recessions.
The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.3% to 2,869.16. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.5% to 25,777.90. The Nasdaq slid 0.3% to 7,826.95.
U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are due to meet next month in Washington, but neither side has given any indication of offering concessions to break a deadlock. A round of talks last month in Shanghai ended with no sign of progress.
Washington and Beijing fueled investor pessimism on Friday with an additional round of tit-for-tat tariff hikes. Their punitive duties on billions of dollars of each other's goods already have battered exporters on both sides and prompted forecasters to cut economic growth outlooks.
"There are no grounds to believe China will concede to a deal based on unilateral, lopsided demands under rising tariffs duress," said Mizuho Bank in a report.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 56 cents to $55.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.29 on Tuesday to close at $54.93. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 41 cents to $59.44 per barrel in London. It advanced 91 cents the previous session to $59.03.
CURRENCY: The dollar advanced to 105.84 yen from Tuesday's 105.76 yen. The euro declined to $1.1088 from $1.1092.