Trade, China data and stocks on the agenda
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost steam late in the trading session, reversing gains seen earlier in the day to close down 0.31 percent, or 65.72 points, at 21,388.58. The broader Topix shed 0.44 percent, with just five of its 33 sector indexes clinging to gains by the end of the session.
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Despite the overall move lower, gains were seen among so-called THAAD-related stocks, which tend to be sensitive to China-South Korea ties. Shares of Lotte Shopping, Amorepacific and Korean Air Line rose 6.61 percent, 5.05 percent and 1.63 percent, respectively. THAAD-related stocks — named after the anti-missile system — include a range of retail, airline and hospitality stocks.
Mainland markets were narrowly mixed at the end of the session, with the Shanghai composite finishing lower by 0.16 percent at 3,163.86 and the Shenzhen composite adding 0.16 percent to close at 1,856.66.
Those moves also came after China on Friday unveiled its pilot plan to spur high-tech companies listed abroad to also issue depositary receipts on the mainland.
Markets in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand were closed on Monday for the Easter holiday.
China announces tariffs
That matched the list of products proposed by Beijing in March and comes as a direct response to U.S. President Donald Trump signing off on tariffs on imported steel and aluminum last month. China said in March that those goods had an import value of $3 billion in 2017.
While the market reaction on Monday appeared calm for the most part, global stocks took a beating last month as markets worried over the possibility of a trade war taking place.
"Trade tensions are unlikely to cool in the near future, but investors should remember that trade actions typically fall far short of initially announced policies," Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, said in an email.
Anderson added that growth on either side of the Pacific was not expected to be substantially affected in the near term, given the scope and scale of recently announced tariffs.
The cautious moves in the region also came as the new quarter of the year kicked off.
"Asian bourses are likely to see a slow start to the week as investors ponder how second-quarter trading would pan out," analysts at OCBC Bank said in a daily note.
On the economic front, Japan's tankan survey showed large manufacturers were less confident in the three months ending March amid a firmer yen, Reuters said. Big companies, however, also indicated they intended to increase capital spending by 2.3 percent in the new financial year, topping the 0.6 percent projected.
Elsewhere, the Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index, which focuses on small and mid-size manufacturing, came in at 51.0 for March, missing the 51.7 forecast in a Reuters poll.
Data released on Saturday showed that manufacturing activity in China expanded more than expected in March.The official Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 51.5 last month, above the 50.5 estimated in a Reuters survey. That also topped the 50.3 figure seen in February.
In corporate news, Toshiba said in a Friday statement that the planned sale of its memory chip unit would likely be completed in April. It added that the company still intended to close the deal "as soon as possible." The agreement had been previously slated to be completed by Mar. 31. Toshiba stock closed down 0.97 percent.
Meanwhile, shares of Japan Display fell 6.22 percent. The decline came after the screen maker announced plans to raise funds, which Reuters said would total $518 million.
ICICI Bank was down 6.36 percent by 2:30 p.m. HK/SIN amid news of a police probe involving the spouse of CEO Chanda Kochhar, according to Reuters. ICICI last week said that there had been "malicious and unfounded rumors" about the bank, but that its credit approval processes were "robust."
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six rivals, was mostly steady at 89.972 at 2:53 p.m. HK/SIN. Against the yen, the dollar fetched 106.32, little changed for the Asian trading day.
technology stocks remain under focus
Autos were the top gainers Thursday, driven higher by Renault. The car maker's shares were up by 6 percent following a media report that the company could merge with Nissan. The shares traded close to a 10-year high earlier on the news, but the firm has declined to comment on the report.
Electrocomponents was also among the top performers after a rating upgrade. Furthermore, Swiss Re rose 2 percent after a report that the Japanese group SoftBank is looking at buying a 25 percent stake in the reinsurer.
U.S. stocks traded higher Thursday, as the technology sector tried to curb steep declines seen in recent sessions.
More corporate news and data
In terms of data, German unemployment figures reached a record low in March at 5.3 percent, according to new data. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s current account deficit was £18.4 billion in the last quarter of 2017, lower than what analysts had expected.
Earlier, the latest Nationwide housing prices in the U.K. showed a drop of 0.2 percent month-on-month in March, below the consensus.
Dow tanks more than 450 points, Amazon leads tech lower
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 458.92 points to close at 23,644.19, with Intel as the worst-performing stock in the index. The 30-stock index fell as much as 758.59 points and hit a new low for the year on Monday, falling at one point below the intraday low touched during the slide in February.
The S&P 500 dropped 2.2 percent to 2,581.88 and re-entered correction territory, with tech falling 2.5 percent. The index also closed below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level, for the first time since June 2016. The Nasdaq composite dropped 2.7 percent to 6,870.12 as Amazon declined 5.2 percent.
The Nasdaq closed in correction territory for the first time.
"The market leaders are under pressure," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. "It's a situation where the proven winners for the past few years are faltering." When that happens, "there is a negative psychological sense in the market."
Amazon fell after President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that Amazon was scamming the U.S. Postal Service, adding the service loses "billions of dollars" delivering packages for the e-commerce giant. Amazon has been one of the best-performing stocks over the past year, rising nearly 64 percent in that time period.
Facebook, Netflix and Alphabet also closed sharply lower, dropping 2.8 percent, 5.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Last month, concerns over how Facebook handles data collected from its users sent the entire sector lower. Facebook dropped 10.4 percent in March.
Intel dropped 6.1 percent after Bloomberg reported Apple would use its own chips for Mac computers, ditching Intel. The Dow hit its lows of the day on the back of the report.
Traders also fretted over the possibility that a trade war may be brewing.
China announced overnight Monday it had implemented tariffs on 128 types of U.S. imports. The goods hit with the charges the list of products proposed by Beijing in March and comes as a direct response to Trump signing off on tariffs on imported steel and aluminum last month. China said in March that those goods had an import value of $3 billion in 2017.
Trade worries also remained after Trump linked his proposal to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to ongoing NAFTA negotiations between the two countries. In a tweet Sunday, Trump said: "They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!"
"The new bearish narrative is that tariffs implemented by the Trump administration will spur a global trade war that would spiral the world into a recession," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout. "We understand the fear. We get how bad a global trade war would be on future profits."
However, "despite fears of a global trade war, guidance among the early reporting companies are taking earnings growth expectations higher," said Raich, noting companies are getting a substantial boost from lower corporate taxes.
In economic news, the IHS Markit U.S. manufacturing PMI rose to 55.6 in March, its highest level since 2015. Meanwhile, the ISM manufacturing index reached 59.3 last month. Economists expected the number to hit 60.0.
—CNBC's Cheang Ming contributed to this article.