European stock markets down as Hong Kong protests continue

LONDON (AFP) – European stock markets dropped yesterday as escalating protests in Hong Kong forced the closure of the financial hub’s airport.

London, Frankfurt and Paris all slid into negative territory approaching the half-way stage, having rallied at the open, as news of the shutdown spread.

“Reports that authorities have closed the airport in Hong Kong sent markets lower after what had been a positive open in Europe,” said Chief Analyst Neil Wilson at traders

“Hong Kong has kind of been under the radar of most traders… but increasingly I feel like that this has the potential to spiral into a bigger market worry. Today’s moves highlight the risks,” he added.

All flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled late yesterday after thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded into the city’s airport to denounce police violence.

A currency trader gestures at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea yesterday. – AP

The abrupt shutdown came as the Chinese government signalled its rising anger at the protesters, denouncing some of the violent demonstrations as “terrorism”.

Hong Kong’s main shares index closed lower just as news of the shutdown emerged.

The Hang Seng Index ended with a loss of 0.44 per cent to 25,824.72 points, as investors focussed on the outlook for China-United States trade talks.

On currency markets, the euro steadied versus the dollar having suffered last Friday on Italian political woes.

The European single currency meanwhile hit an almost three-year high versus sterling owing to lingering Brexit uncertainty, before the pound recovered.

Oil prices dropped, hit by the trade war’s impact on crude demand and following last Friday’s rally that came on the back of producer Saudi Arabia’s pledge to lower output.