Asian Shares Mostly Lower As U.S.-China Tensions Rise

Asian stocks closed mostly lower on Monday following mixed trade data released by China and on worries about rising U.S.-China tensions after Reuters reported that the U.S. government is considering adding China’s largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. or SMIC to a trade blacklist.

Shares in China and Hong Kong closed lower for the fourth straight session. Data from the General Administration of Customs showed that China’s exports grew more than expected in August mainly due to base effects, while imports dropped unexpectedly from last year. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 62.78 points, or 1.9 percent, to close at 3,292.59.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 105.80 points or 0.4 percent to settle at 24,589.65, amid fresh pro-democracy protests in the city. Shares of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. tumbled 22.4 percent in Hong Kong.

Japanese shares declined following the negative cues from Wall Street. Investors also turned cautious ahead of the release of a slew of local economic data this week.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index fell 115.48 points, or 0.5 percent, to finish at 23,089.95, while the broader Topix dropped 6.86 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,609.74.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. tumbled 7.1 percent. The Financial Times reported that SoftBank was the “Nasdaq whale” that made huge bets on U.S. equity derivatives linked to tech companies over the past one month and contributed to a trading frenzy.

Fast Retailing added 0.4 percent. Sony declined 1.1 percent and Panasonic edged down 0.2 percent.

On the economic front, preliminary data from the Cabinet Office showed that Japan’s leading index rose to a five-month high in July. The leading index, which measures the future economic activity, rose to 86.9 in July from 83.8 in June. The coincident index increased to 76.2 in July from 74.4 in the previous month. This was the highest since April.

The Australian market recovered after a weak start to close modestly higher, with mining stocks and banks among the leading gainers. Investor sentiment received a boost after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia expects to receive its first batches of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 19.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 5,944.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index advanced 21.10 points, or 0.4 percent, to settle at 6,129.90.

Among the major miners, BHP Group rose 2.4 percent, Rio Tinto advanced 2.5 percent and Fortescue Metals added 2.1 percent.

In the banking sector, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank advanced in a range of 1.5 percent to 1.9 percent, while Commonwealth Bank added almost 1 percent.

CSL rose 1.1 percent after the biotechnology company said it will manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University on completion of successful trials. The company is also developing another vaccine candidate with the University of Queensland.

In economic news, Australia’s job advertisement grew at a much slower pace in August, data from ANZ showed. Job ads increased 1.6 percent month-on-month in August, after a 19.1 percent rise in July. At the same time, job advertisements decreased by 27.0 percent since February and declined 30 percent on a yearly basis in August.

Seoul stocks rebounded after losses in the previous session, reflecting gains by Samsung Electronics and as South Korea reported a slowdown in daily COVID-19 infection cases. The benchmark Kospi added 15.97 points, or 0.7 percent, to finish at 2,384.22.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 2.1 percent after the conglomerate said it won a $6.64 billion order from U.S. telecom giant Verizon to supply network equipment. Samsung Biologics added 0.4 percent.

New Zealand shares also closed higher. The benchmark NZX 50 Index rose 35.14 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 11,859.45. Shares of telecom company Chorus gained 3.6 percent.

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