Asian stock markets declined Wednesday as weaker-than-expected Japanese trade data dampened sentiment.
Japanese benchmark Nikkei declined 0.27 percent or 25.18 points to 9,131.74, Hong Kong's Hang Seng plunged 1.06 percent or 212.31 points to 19,887.78 and Chinese Shanghai Composite fell 0.54 percent or 10.56 points to 2107.71while South Korean KOSPI Composite declined 0.41 percent and Indian benchmark BSE Sensex slipped 0.21 percent.
Official data showed that Japan recorded trade deficit of 517.4 billion yen ($6.5 billion) in July compared to a revised 60.3 billion yen surplus in June as exports fell the most in six months on annual basis. Exports dropped 8.1 percent to 5.31 trillion yen from a year earlier, worse than analysts' estimate of 3.2 percent fall, mainly hurt by sovereign-debt crisis in Europe and a slowdown in China.
"Economic data confirmed fundamentals are not strong, with a slowdown in China, which relies heavily on exports to Europe, having material effects elsewhere," Takeo Okuhara, a fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, investors await the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and the outcome of the European leaders' discussions on the sovereign debt crisis in the region this week.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Berlin Thursday to discuss the regional debt crisis. Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers' meetings, will visit Athens to meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras Wednesday. Talks will likely focus on a delay in the fiscal adjustment, likely by two years as favored by Samaras.
The FOMC will release minutes of its July 31-August 1 meeting Wednesday. The minutes will give some insight into how the Fed officials' views on the economic outlook evolve.
"We believe the FOMC language implied that the Fed needs to see some improvement (particularly in labor market conditions) or else additional stimulus measures are likely. The degree of support among the meeting participants for this view will be instructive for assessing the odds of any policy change in September," said a note from Credit Agricole.
In Japan, Canon Inc. declined 1.06 percent and Kyocera Corp. fell 1.16 percent while Mazda Motor Corp. gained 1.03 percent.
Oil producers led the declines in China and Hong Kong. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. fell 1.89 percent and CNOOC Ltd. declined 1.85 percent.
Steel producers went down across the region. Nippon Steel Corp. declined 1.71 percent in Tokyo while Maanshan Iron & Steel Co. plunged 5.46 percent in Hong Kong.