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Asian Shares Mostly Lower As Virus Worries Weigh

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Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Tuesday amid lingering concerns over the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and China's regulatory crackdown on technology companies in dramatic ways.

South Korea is struggling to contain a fourth Covid-19 wave, with new cases staying in the 1,200s for the second day in a row.

In China, the spread of the Delta variant from the mainland's coast to inland cities prompted authorities to implement strict measures.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 16.29 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,447.99. Online gaming stocks tumbled after state media branded online gaming "opium" and likened it to a drug.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 40.98 points, or 0.2 percent, at 26,194.82. Tencent shares slumped 6.1 percent as an article by Economic Information Daily called for further restrictions on the industry in order to prevent addiction and other negative impacts on children.

Japanese shares fell after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga flagged growing COVID-19 infections among Japanese in their 20s and 30s. The Nikkei 225 Index slid 139.19 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 27,641.83 as the country grappled with its own fifth wave, centered on Tokyo. The broader Topix ended down 8.91 points, or 0.5 percent, at 1,931.14.

Video game company Nexon plunged 6.5 percent as Chinese state media branded online gaming "spiritual opium" in Beijing's latest assault on tech and social habits.

Nintendo dropped 1.1 percent, Bandai Namco Holdings declined 1.5 percent, Konami Holdings gave up 2.3 percent and DeNA lost 3.9 percent.

Airline stocks fell, with ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines losing 2-3 percent. M&A adviser GCA soared 28.5 percent after U.S. boutique investment bank Houlihan Lokey launched a tender offer to acquire the company.

In economic news, consumer prices in the Tokyo region were down 0.1 percent year-on-year in July, official data showed. That was in line with expectations after a flat reading in June.

Australian markets ended lower as the Reserve Bank stuck with its plan to taper its bond-buying program despite Sydney's prolonged lockdown.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged down 16.90 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,474.50, retreating from the previous session's record close. The broader All Ordinaries Index dipped 10 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,750.50.

Weak metals prices weighed on the mining sector, with BHP and Fortescue Metals Group declining 1.4 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos fell over 1 percent as oil extend overnight losses on fuel demand concerns.

Buy now, pay later firm Afterpay soared 11.4 percent to extend gains from the previous session after agreeing to a 31 percent premium takeover bid from Square Inc. Appen surged 5.4 percent and Wisetech Global advanced 1.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Seoul stocks rose for the second straight day, with tech heavyweights leading the surge on expectations for robust global demand. The benchmark Kospi ended a choppy session up 14.10 points, or 0.4 percent, at 3,237.14. Samsung Electronics climbed 2.7 percent and SK Hynix added 3.5 percent.

Data released earlier in the day showed the country's consumer inflation accelerated in July, staying at a nine-year peak marked in May.

New Zealand shares gave up early gains to end on a flat note, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index closing down 2.47 points at 12,700.50. Auckland International Airport, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Meridian Energy all rose about 1 percent.

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