Asian Shares Retreat Amid U.S.-China Conflict

Asian stocks fell on Friday as disappointing U.S. employment data as well as concerns about rising U.S.-China tensions added to worries about the spread of the coronavirus.

Japanese markets were closed for the Sports Day holiday. Chinese shares led regional losses as tensions between the U.S. and China worsened.

Just days after the U.S. government ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, China announced the closure of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, saying it was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable actions of the United States.”

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 128.34 points, or 3.9 percent, to 3,196.77, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 557.67 points, or 2.2 percent, at 24,705.33.

Australian markets also fell sharply, dragged down by tech stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled 70.50 points, or 1.2 percent, to 6,024 as Victoria State reported a mounting death toll from the coronavirus and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the federal budget deficit hit almost $86 billion last financial year. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 65.90 points, or 1.1 percent, at 6,148.

Heavyweight buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay lost 3 percent. Gold miners snapped a five-day winning streak, with Northern Star Resources and Regis Resources falling over 2 percent. Evolution Mining slumped 7.8 percent.

The big four banks fell between 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent. Insurance company Insurance Australia Group plunged 7.8 percent after canceling its final dividend and slashing its earnings expectations for 2020. In the energy sector, Santos dropped 1.2 percent and Oil Search tumbled 3.4 percent.

Australia’s private sector gathered momentum in July following the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, flash data from IHS Markit showed today.

The flash Commonwealth Bank composite output index rose to 57.9 in July from 52.7 in June. Business activity grew at the fastest pace since April 2017, with the overall expansion driven by a sharp rise in services activity.

Seoul stocks extended losses for a third straight session as investors fretted about the economic fallout from the global Covid-19 health crisis. The benchmark Kospi slid 15.75 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,200.44, a day after data showed the country slipped into a recession in the second quarter.

New Zealand shares ended lower as escalating U.S.-China tensions and concerns about a disagreement over stimulus spending in the United States overshadowed upbeat trade balance data. The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 57.15 points, or 0.5 percent, to 11,636.26.

U.S. stocks fell sharply overnight as investors reacted to rising coronavirus cases, mixed earnings updates, disappointing jobless claims figures and the ongoing debate in Congress over the next stimulus bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 1.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index lost 2.3 percent and the S&P 500 declined 1.2 percent.

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