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Asian Shares Pressured as US-China Row Over Hong Kong Threatens Trade Deal Hopes

Australian shares extended losses on Thursday, pulled down by Westpac Banking Corp as accusations of money laundering breaches against the lender rattled the financial sector, which has been in regulatory crosshairs for nearly two years.
James Hyerczyk
U.S.-China Trade Dispute

The major Asia Pacific stock indexes are down across the board on Thursday following a report that the highly anticipated “phase one” trade deal between the United States and China may not be signed by the end of 2019.

This comes following a report more than a week ago that claimed the trade talks hit a “snag” over the amount of U.S. agricultural purchases by China. And a report earlier this week that China is upset that President Trump has not agreed to rollback tariffs.

At 06:37 GMT, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index is trading 23038.58, down 109.99 or -0.48%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is at 26438.30, down 451.31 or -1.68% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index is trading 2092.51, down 32.81 or -1.54%.

In China, the Shanghai Index is trading 2897.40, down 13.65 or -0.47% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 6672.90, down 49.50 or 0.74%.

Trade Deal Doubts Weigh on Markets

Reuters reported, citing trade experts and people close to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, the completion of a partial trade deal could be pushed into 2020 as China seeks more extensive tariff rollbacks. That report came after The Wall Street Journal reported, citing former Trump administration officials, that the ongoing trade talks could hit an impasse.

U.S.-China Disagreement Over Hong Kong Could End Trade Deal Hopes

Global stocks took a beating on Thursday as a fresh row between Washington and Beijing over U.S. legislation on Hong Kong threatened to undermine their trade talks and delay a “phase one” deal that investors had initially hoped to be signed by now, according to Reuters.

The legislation, which has angered Beijing, has been sent to the White House for President Donald Trump’s approval. A person familiar with the matter said Trump was expected to sign it.

“China will surely take this as an interference into its domestic affairs and is likely to think it will no longer need to make concessions on trade,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Australian Shares Weighed Down by Westpac Controversy

Australian shares extended losses on Thursday, pulled down by Westpac Banking Corp as accusations of money laundering breaches against the lender rattled the financial sector, which has been in regulatory crosshairs for nearly two years.

Westpac was accused on Wednesday of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws by the country’s second biggest lender. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the board of Westpac must review the position of CEO Brian Hartzer, laying further pressure on the company. The financial stock sector slipped 0.7 percent on the news.

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