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Stocks veer lower, led by drops in tech companies and banks

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SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday as protesters in Hong Kong vowed to keep opposing a proposed extradition bill they fear would whittle down the Chinese territory’s legal autonomy.

The protests threaten to shake confidence in the hub for many regional and international businesses and investors. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 0.5% to 27,163.46, extending its losses after closing down 1.7% on Wednesday.

The Shanghai Composite index added 0.1% to 2,912.47 while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.8% to 2,092.11. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.8% to 20,958.25. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 picked up 0.1% to 6,550.10 after the release of better-than-expected jobs data. Shares fell in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters clashed with police and were confronted with rounds of tear gas as they demonstrated on the streets of Hong Kong. At least 72 people were brought to hospitals, with two in serious condition, the Hong Kong Hospital Authority said.

They obstructed the flow of traffic and delayed a debate on a bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China. Protesters fear this would allow Beijing to tighten its grip over Hong Kong, which was promised the right to maintain its own political, economic and social institutions for 50 years following the British handover in 1997.

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Traffic was restored Thursday but students and civil rights activists have pledged to keep protesting the legislation.

“The Hong Kong crisis could continue to escalate in the coming days and should weigh on risk appetite. Trade deal updates could fall to the second page of papers, but eventually we could see Chinese politics blend together,” Edward Moya of OANDA said in a market commentary.

President Donald Trump has said he expects to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka later this month. But he said he’s prepared to expand existing tariffs if a deal with Beijing falls through. Representatives from both countries have had 11 rounds of trade talks but have yet to ink an agreement.

Wall Street suffered its second straight loss on Wednesday as bank and technology companies slid. Investors were worried that a trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies would drag on for longer than expected.

The S&P 500 index eased 0.2% to 2,879.84 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also fell 0.2% to 26,004.83. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 0.4% to 7,792.72. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks edged up less than 0.1% to 1,519.79.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 9 cents to $51.05 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed $2.13 to $51.14 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell 7 cents to $59.90 per barrel. The contract lost $2.32 to $59.97 per barrel in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 108.32 Japanese yen from 108.50 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1293 from $1.1288.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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