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Asian Shares Retreat On Trade Deal Worries

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Asian stocks fell on Thursday on concerns a phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China may not be reached this year.

Adding to the tensions between the world's two biggest economies, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a Senate bill supporting protesters in Hong Kong and sending a warning to China about human rights. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation passed by both chambers of Congress.

Chinese stocks fell to extend losses for the second straight day on concerns the crackdown on anti-government protests in Hong Kong could imperil a preliminary trade deal with the United States.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 7.42 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,903.64, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.6 percent to 26,466.88.

Japanese shares hit a three-week low, though markets ended well off their day's lows after Bloomberg News quoted China's Vice Premier Liu He as saying that he was "cautiously optimistic" on a phase one trade deal.

The Nikkei 225 Index slid 109.99 points, or 0.4 percent, to 23,038.58 points, its lowest closing level since November 1st. The broader Topix index closed 0.1 percent lower at 1.689.38.

Semiconductor-related stocks fell on profit taking after recent sharp gains, with Tokyo Electron, Advantest and Screen Holdings losing 3-4 percent.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group fell 1.6 percent on reports the tech conglomerate is in talks for a loan of about 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion) from Japan's leading banks.

Australian markets fell notably after the financial crime fighting agency accused Westpac, the country's second-largest bank by assets, of the biggest breach of money laundering laws in the nation's history.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 49.50 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,672.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 50.60 points, or 0.7 percent, at 6,777.70.

Westpac shares declined 2 percent, while the other three big banks ended down around half a percent on concerns that they might divulge similar breaches. Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto fell 1-2 percent.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy hit a more than one-year high before giving up some gains to end the session 0.7 percent higher. Beach Energy declined 1.7 percent, Woodside Petroleum shed 1.2 percent and Santos gave up 1.6 percent.

Clothing retailer Noni B tumbled 3.5 percent after it agreed to acquire a 50.1 percent stake in New Zealand-based clothing and homewares retailer EziBuy for a "nominal consideration."

Seoul stocks extended losses for a fourth day to hit a one-month low as risk-off sentiment prevailed on fresh worries about a further delay in a U.S.-China trade deal. The benchmark Kospi slumped 28.72 points, or 1.4 percent, to end at 2,096.60, the lowest level since October 2nd.

Tech and bio shares paced the decliners. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics shed 1.9 percent and SK Hynix, the world's No. 2 memory chipmaker, lost 2.2 percent.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing slightly lower. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index slipped 17.33 points, or 0.2 percent, to 10,958.16. Shares of electricity generation company Contact Energy rallied 2.5 percent.

In economic news, New Zealand's credit card spending declined for the second straight month in October, central bank data showed today.

Singapore's Straits Times Index tumbled 1.2 percent even as official data showed the country's economy grew faster than initially estimated in the third quarter.

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