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Asian Shares Decline As Sino-US Tensions Flare

asianmarket 021219 14jul20 lt

Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Tuesday as global coronavirus cases topped 13 million and the World Health Organization warned the pandemic could get far worse if countries around the world do not follow basic healthcare precautions.

"The virus remains public enemy number one," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Renewed U.S.-China tensions also dampened investor sentiment as the White House rejected nearly all Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea.

In another development, the Trump administration plans to scrap a 2013 agreement between U.S. and Chinese auditing authorities, a senior State Department official reportedly said.

Chinese shares declined as rising confirmed coronavirus cases and percolating tensions between the U.S. and China overshadowed encouraging inflation data. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended down 28.67 points, or 0.8 percent, at 3,414.62.

China's exports unexpectedly grew in June, data from the General Administration of Customs revealed. Exports increased 0.5 percent on a yearly basis in June, while economists had forecast an annual fall of 1.5 percent.

Likewise, imports increased 2.7 percent annually, confounding expectations for a decrease of 10 percent. The trade surplus totaled $46.42 billion versus the $62.9 billion surplus posted in May. In yuan terms, exports advanced 4.3 percent and imports gained 6.2 percent in June.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 294.23 points, or 1.1 percent, to 25,477.89 as reports of locally transmitted coronavirus cases prompted authorities to tighten precautions against the pandemic.

Japanese shares lost ground on profit taking after hitting a one-month high in the previous session. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index slid 197.73 points, or 0.9 percent, to 22,587.01, while the broader Topix closed half a percent lower at 1,565.15.

Shares of semiconductor and other high-tech firms slumped after the Nasdaq Composite dropped sharply overnight, pulled down by Amazon, Microsoft and other big-name leaders of Wall Street's recent rally.

Tokyo Electron fell 1.5 percent, while Advantest and Screen Holdings declined around 2.4 percent each. Sony Corp. lost 2 percent after hitting its highest level since 2001 in the previous session.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group gave up 1.4 percent on a Wall Street Journal report that the tech conglomerate is exploring options that include a full or partial sale or a public offering of British chip designer Arm Holdings.

Australian markets fell notably as two states extended border restrictions and Australia's most populous state imposed limits on the number of people allowed in large pubs amid growing fears of a second coronavirus wave.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 36.40 points, or 0.6 percent to 5,941.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 43.80 points, or 0.7 percent, at 6,045.50.

Energy companies ended broadly lower after crude oil prices fell overnight. Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay slumped 7.2 percent after announcing a business update for full-year 2020.

Gold miners Evolution Mining, Northern Star Resources and Newcrest fell over 2 percent as safe-haven gold prices gave back ground in electronic trading after ending the regular session higher.

Lender Westpac Banking Corp shed 0.8 percent after naming Michael Rowland as its chief financial officer. Whitehaven Coal soared 4.1 percent after the company posted a 29 percent jump in fourth-quarter coal production.

Australia's business confidence and conditions rebounded in June, survey data from National Australia Bank showed today. The business confidence index rose 21 points to 1 from -20 in May. Confidence increased across all sectors except retail.

Seoul stocks ended modestly lower, with a record number of global coronavirus infections, a tepid earnings outlook and mounting U.S.-China tensions denting sentiment. The benchmark Kospi edged down 2.45 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,183.61 ahead of the Bank of Korea's rate decision on Thursday.

The government will invest 160 trillion won (US$133 billion) by 2025 on the "Korean New Deal," projects that will help create 1.9 million jobs and kick-start the coronavirus-hit economy, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said today.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing higher, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index rising 59.35 points, or 0.5 percent, to 11,494.14.

Pushpay Holdings shares slumped 8.4 percent after an announcement that the
Huljich family has sold 25 percent of its holdings in the company.

U.S. stocks ended a choppy session mostly lower overnight as California rolled back its reopening plans and investors grappled with rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite reached a fresh record intraday high before reversing direction to end down 2.1 percent.

The S&P 500 declined 0.9 percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished little changed with a positive bias.

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