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Stocks in Hong Kong Drop 2% as U.S.-China Tensions Heats Up

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed in Thursday afternoon trade as mounting U.S.-China tensions weighed on investor sentiment.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.81% by the afternoon as shares of Chinese tech giant Tencent dropped 3.24%.

Mainland Chinese stocks also turned negative, with the Shanghai composite down 0.35% while the Shenzhen component dropped 1.336%. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.94% as shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing jumped 2.54%. The Topix index also advanced 0.56%.


Elsewhere the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia jumped 1.05% after Reserve Bank of Australia Philip Lowe told lawmakers that “it is possible that the economic downturn will not be severe as earlier thought.”

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.69%. Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index shed 0.51%.

Developments on U.S.-China relations likely continued to be monitored by investors, as tensions between the two economic powerhouses mount.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China, raising questions over the special administrative region’s favorable trade relationship with the U.S. as well as opening up the possibility of sanctions on Chinese officials. Pompeo’s comments came following the proposal of a national security law from Beijing that has spurred protests in Hong Kong.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday also passed legislation condemning China for the detention and torture of Uighur Muslims in the country’s western region of Xinjiang.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures declining 3.08% to $33.67 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also fell 4.33% to $31.39 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.929 after seeing levels above 99.6 earlier in the trading week.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.77 per dollar after weakening from levels below 107.6 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6599 after dropping from levels above $0.665 yesterday.