HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets were mixed Monday, with Hong Kong tumbling more than two per cent at one point after a weekend of unrest as pro-democracy demonstrations led to the closure of parts of the city.
The stand-off, the worst since the handover in 1997, saw police fire tear gas into crowds of thousands of protesters on Sunday and has led to the closure of several businesses, bank branches and schools.
Protest leaders have vowed not to back down until Beijing gives in to their demands for full universal suffrage.
In early trade Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped 2.31 per cent, before paring some losses to sit 1.89 per cent lower in late afternoon.
The city’s banking giants took a heavy hit, with HSBC down 1.46 per cent in late afternoon, Hang Seng Bank 1.71 per cent lower and Standard Chartered down 1.67 per cent.
The HSI was already on a downtrend owing to concerns about the Chinese economy following a string of weak indicators recently. It has lost 6.5 per cent since hitting its 2014 high at the start of the month.
A report by New York-based advisory firm JL Warren Capital said, “We are likely to see (a) major sell-off and volatility for days to come in the Hong Kong stock market.”
Elsewhere Sydney ended 0.93 per cent lower, shedding 49.2 points to 5,264.2, while Seoul eased 0.25 per cent, or 5.04 points, to close at 2,026.60.
However, Tokyo finished 0.50 per cent higher, adding 80.78 points to 16,310.64. Shanghai put on 0.43 per cent, or 9.99 points, to 2,357.71, with mainland investors seemingly unfazed by events in Hong Kong.
Japanese shares ticked up as the dollar pushed up against the yen, heading towards the 110 yen mark after US data showed the economy expanded at its fastest pace since 2011 during the April-June quarter.
Gross domestic product grew 4.6 per cent, the Commerce Department said, better than the previous 4.2 per cent estimate.
The figure showed a strong rebound from the first quarter’s 2.1 per cent contraction, which was blamed in part on unusually severe winter weather.
The news sent the dollar higher in New York, hitting 109.28 in late trade Friday. On Monday the greenback bought 109.61 yen.
In Tokyo Monday the euro was at $1.2685 compared with $1.2683 while it was also at 139.03 yen, from 138.60 yen.
Wall Street Friday provided a strong lead for Asia, with the Dow rising 0.99 per cent, the S&P 500 adding 0.86 per cent and the Nasdaq rallying 1.02 per cent.
On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery dropped 54 cents to $93.00. Brent crude for November fell 31 cents to $96.69 in afternoon trade.
Gold was at $1,218.69 an ounce against $1,223.10 late Friday.