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Aug. 12, 2019, 11:57 p.m. EDT

Asian markets fall as Hong Kong tensions remain high

Nikkei, Hang Seng decline amid growing geopolitical uncertainty

By Marketwatch and Associated Press


Reuters
Many flights were canceled again Tuesday at Hong Kong International Airport after it reopened.

Asian markets fell in early trading Tuesday as tensions in Hong Kong ratcheted up following protests Monday that shut down the city’s airport.

Hong Kong’s airport, one of the world’s busiest, struggled to reopen Tuesday, while protests continued, though at a smaller scale. While some flights resumed, many were canceled amid a backlog of flights following Monday’s closure.

After 10 weeks, the pro-democracy demonstrations show no sign of letting up, while Chinese officials have used the term “terrorism” to describe the protests. The clashes have weakened investors’ confidence, some analysts said, and there are fears that a harsh crackdown by China could trigger a global market selloff.

“Dropping the ‘T’ word is particularly disturbing as it does suggest a more aggressive mainland response, which triggered a wave of risk aversion across global markets,” Stephen Innes, managing partner at VM Markets, said in a note Monday night.

Read: How Hong Kong clashes could wallop the U.S. stock market

Meanwhile, China’s central bank set the yuan’s midpoint weaker than 7 per U.S. dollar for a fourth straight day Tuesday. The reference point of 7.0326 per dollar was weaker than the previous day, but still stronger than what analysts had expected.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HONG:HK:HSI)   fell 1.7%, while the Shanghai Composite (SHG:CN:SHCOMP)   slipped 0.7% and the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite (SHENHZEN:CN:399106)   retreated 0.9%. Japan’s Nikkei (NIKKEI:JP:NIK)   dropped 1.1% following a holiday Monday, and South Korea’s Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721)   edged down 0.6%. Benchmark indexes in Taiwan (TAIWAN:TW:Y9999)  , Singapore (SES:SG:STI)   and Indonesia (INDONESIA:ID:JAKIDX)   all fell, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (S&P:AU:XJO)   inched down slightly.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank (TKS:JP:9984)   dropped in Tokyo trading, along with Fast Retailing (TKS:JP:9983)   and Nintendo (TKS:JP:7974)  . In Hong Kong, casino operator Galaxy Entertainment (HKG:HK:27)  , insurer AIA Group (HKG:HK:1299)   and developer Sino Land (HKG:HK:83)   fell. Samsung (KRX:KR:005930)   declined in South Korea, while Foxconn (TAI:TW:2354)   fell in Taiwan. Beach Energy (ASX:AU:BPT)   surged in Australia, as did Fortescue Metals (ASX:AU:FMG)  .

Investor anxiety has also been fed by President Donald Trump’s threat of new U.S. tariff hikes on Chinese goods and weaker-than-expected data from India, Argentina and Singapore.

“The global economy is perched precariously, hoping for a positive inflection, but braced for a stumble,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 had its biggest decline in a week while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 400 points. Selling was widespread. Technology companies and banks accounted for a big share of the decline.

Investors sought safety in U.S. government bonds, sending their yields tumbling. The price for gold, another traditional safe-haven asset, closed higher.

The S&P 500 (S&P:SPX)   lost 1.2% to 2,883.09. The Dow (DOW:DJIA)   fell 1.5%, or 389.73 points, to 25,897.71. The Nasdaq composite (NASDAQ:COMP)   dropped 1.2% to 7,863.41.

Trump has promised 10% tariffs on some $300 billion in Chinese imports that haven’t already been hit with tariffs of 25%. The new tariff would go into effect Sept. 1 and more directly affect U.S. consumers.

Last week, Trump said he’d be “fine” if the U.S. and China don’t go ahead with a meeting next month, dampening investors’ hopes for a resolution.

Benchmark U.S. crude   lost 13 cents to $54.80 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 43 cents on Monday to close at $54.93. Brent crude  , used to price international oils, declined 19 cents to $58.38 per barrel in London. It added 4 cents the previous session to $58.57.

The dollar (XTUP:USDJPY)   gained to 105.57 yen from Monday’s 105.30 yen.

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