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Trading mixed on global uncertainty

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Straits Times Index falls 0.43 per cent, down for a sixth straight session

Asian markets traded mixed yesterday, with global uncertainty over multiple issues clouding optimism on trade talk progress between China and the US.

In a pre-arranged phone call on Tuesday, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He discussed the next stage of trade talks with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

The news cheered the Hong Kong and Chinese markets, with the Hang Seng gaining 0.1 per cent to 25,771.67 and the Shanghai Composite ending 0.4 per cent higher at 2,594.09.

But other issues troubled markets, including British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to call off a parliamentary vote on her latest Brexit plan.

She later departed for a series of meetings with European leaders, both individually and at a summit later this week, promising to discuss with them the "clear concerns" raised by the Parliament over the plan.

She faces an uphill battle in seeking changes to the agreement, as the European Union has said it is ready to discuss how to ease ratification in Britain, but not to renegotiate the deal.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Mr Urjit Patel, resigned on Monday, ahead of a board meeting later this week.

"Urjit Patel's resignation for 'personal reasons' in fact goes to reinforce the widened rift between the central bank and the government," Mr Robert Carnell, chief economist head of research for Asia-Pacific at ING, wrote in a morning note.

He added the government has greater control of the central bank and its reserves, and whoever replaces Mr Patel will be under intense government pressure to implement more growth-friendly policies ahead of general elections next year.

"The news is a significant negative for the markets; even Moody's deplored it as being credit negative," said Mr Carnell.

Markets in Japan and South Korea closed lower, as did Singapore and Malaysia.

On the other hand, Australian shares ended on higher ground, although the S&P/ASX 200 hovered close to two-year lows.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.43 per cent or 13.16 points lower at 3,059.28, trending downwards for a sixth straight session. On Monday, it closed at 3,072.44, having lost 38.68 points or 1.2 per cent.

About 1.07 billion shares worth $939.6 million changed hands, compared with 1.1 billion worth $740.1 million the day before. Losers outnumbered gainers 227 to 161.

Ezion Holdings was the most actively traded counter, falling 7.4 per cent or 0.4 cent on a volume of 70.4 million shares to end at five cents.

China Star Food Group was another heavily traded stock after announcing on Monday it is proposing a one-for-one renounceable rights issue at 1.5 cents per rights share, with the net proceeds to go towards a partial capital contribution for a China subsidiary as well as working capital in Singapore.

Shares for the sweet potato snacks-maker closed at 2.5 cents, down 1.4 cent or 35.9 per cent after 32.3 million shares changed hands.

Several real estate investment trusts (Reits) advanced, after KGI Securities' research department highlighted them as favourites in a morning report.

Of the seven mentioned, five ended higher, including Ascendas Reit that gained 0.8 per cent to end at $2.58, and CapitaLand Mall Trust, up 0.9 per cent to close at $2.26.

Frasers Centrepoint Trust closed flat at $2.17, while Mapletree Logistics Trust was the only one mentioned in the report that ended lower, losing 0.8 per cent or one cent to $1.27.

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