Asian shares fall on doubts over US-China trade deal

Asian shares fall on report of Chinese doubts about trade deal with the US

The Shanghai Composite index gave up 2.9 percent to 3,016.22 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.4 percent to 28,391.57

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was 1.5 percent lower at 21,142.75, even after the government said its economy grew 1.9 percent in 2018's fourth quarter, from a year ago. This was better than its initial estimate of 1.4 percent. Stocks fell in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.

On Thursday, The New York Times newspaper reported that the U.S. and China have come to a broad agreement that would result in the removal of some tariffs in both countries. This involves China buying more American goods and opening some of its markets further to foreign companies, it said.

But the report said negotiators haven't locked down key details, like when the tariffs will be removed and how to ensure China holds up its end of the deal. It added, citing two people familiar with Beijing's position, that Chinese officials were wary about the final terms due to Trump's bent for last minute-changes.

Trump told reporters Wednesday that the negotiations were "moving along very nicely." Last week, the U.S. shelved a tariff hike on $200 billion in Chinese goods to give officials time to work out a deal.

Investors were also focused on the global economy. The European Central Bank delayed its next interest rate hike and announced a new round of cheap loans for banks on Thursday. This was seen as an acknowledgement of weaker growth by the bank.

Upcoming trade data from China could stem losses or send stocks that are already broadly lower into a freefall.

"The series of aggravating factors for growth concerns continues to gather, the latest from the eurozone, setting Asia markets up for synchronized decline into the end of the week," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

Over on Wall Street, the broad S&P 500 index suffered its fourth straight loss on Thursday, falling 0.8 percent to 2,748.93. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.8 percent to 25,473.23 and the Nasdaq composite shed 1.1 percent to 7,421.46. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks dipped 0.9 percent to 1,523.63.

ENERGY: U.S. crude lost 31 cents to $56.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 44 cents to $56.66 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils fell 44 cents to $65.86 a barrel in London. The contract rose 31 cents to settle at $66.30 per barrel on Thursday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar retreated to 111.39 yen from 111.57 yen late Thursday. The euro advanced to $1.1197 from $1.1194.