Equities across the Asia Pacific region were mostly lower on Thursday, led by Japanese and South Korean carmakers, after US President Donald Trump instructed trade officials to consider a national security investigation into automotive imports.
Toyota Motor dropped 2.7 per cent, Nissan Motor fell 1.9 per cent and Honda Motor slipped 2.8 per cent. And in Seoul, Hyundai Motor was down 1.7 per cent and Kia Motors sank 3.4 per cent.
The fall from carmakers helped drag the Topix in Tokyo down 1 per cent and the Kospi 0.5 per cent lower in Seoul.
The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was down 0.1 per cent with gains for telecoms, energy and technology stocks partially offsetting a 1 per cent decline from the consumer segment. On the mainland, the CSI 300 of major Shenzhen and Shanghai companies was also creeping into negative territory.
The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney was down 0.1 per cent with falls from the key financial and basic materials segments outweighing gains for consumer stocks.
The moves came after Mr Trump confirmed reports the US was considering the investigation, which could lead to a major escalation of global trade tensions and see new tariffs on cars from Europe, Japan and South Korea.
“I instructed Secretary [Wilbur] Ross to consider initiating a Section 232 investigation into imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts to determine their effects on America’s national security,” Trump said in a statement after meeting with Mr Ross.
US stocks found support on Wednesday from dovish Federal Reserve meeting minutes. In New York, the S&P 500 ended 0.3 per cent higher, having earlier been down more than 0.5 per cent, with technology stocks leading the way.