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Roughly Flat Lead Expected For Hong Kong Shares

The Hong Kong stock market headed south again on Wednesday, one session after it had stopped the two-day slide in which it had plummeted more than 1,150 points or 3.4 percent. The Hang Seng Index now rests just beneath the 30,200-point plateau although it may tick slightly higher on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is cloudy, with renewed rate hike concerns and a decline in crude oil prices mitigated by easing fears of a trade war. The European markets were up and the U.S. bourses were mixed - and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.

The Hang Seng finished sharply lower on Wednesday following losses from the casinos and oil and insurance companies.

For the day, the index dropped 313.81 points or 1.03 percent to finish at 30,196.92 after trading between 30,117.40 and 30,673.08.

Among the actives, AIA Group and China Mengniu Dairy both plummeted 2.71 percent, while Galaxy Entertainment plunged 2.44 percent, CNOOC tumbled 2.13 percent, Ping An Insurance skidded 2.10 percent, China Life dropped 1.73 percent, Sands China retreated 1.28 percent, Hengan International jumped 1.19 percent, China Petroleum and Chemical (Sinopec) declined 1.12 percent, Lenovo Group shed 0.98 percent, China Resources Land lost 0.72 percent, CITIC added 0.53 percent, New World Development fell 0.51 percent, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China collected 0.30 percent, China Mobile dipped 0.28 percent and BOC Hong Kong was unchanged.

The lead from Wall Street is murky as stocks opened lower Wednesday before climbing off their worst levels of the day, although only the NASDAQ managed to close in positive territory.

The Dow shed 82.76 points or 0.33 percent to 24,801.36, while the NASDAQ added 24.64 points or 0.33 percent to 7,396.65 and the S&P fell 1.32 points or 0.05 percent to 2,726.80.

The mixed close came after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggested Mexico and Canada could be exempt from President Donald Trump's planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Stocks initially came under pressure in reaction to news of the resignation of White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, a free trade advocate who disagreed with Trump's plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

In economic news, payroll processor ADP said private sector employment increased by more than expected in February. Also, Commerce Department said the trade deficit widened by more than expected in January.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve released its Beige Book, which reinforced expectations the central bank will raise interest rates at its monetary policy meeting later this month.

Crude oil futures tumbled Wednesday amid speculation that U.S. oil production will rise sharply. WTI light sweet crude oil was down $1.43 to $61.17 a barrel.

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