Asian Shares Retreat On Trade Deal Worries

Asian stocks fell on Thursday on concerns that the Phase 1 trade deal between the U.S. and China may not be reached within 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 warning to China about human rights. President Donald Trump is now expected to sign the legislation passed by both chambers of Congress.

Chinese stocks fell to extend losses for the second day running 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 0.25 percent, to 2,903.64 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.57 percent to 26,466.88.

Japanese shares hit 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 deal.

The Nikkei average slid 109.99 points, or 0.48 percent, to 23,038.58 points, its lowest level since Nov. 1. 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 0.74 percent, to 6,672.90 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 50.60 points, or 0.74 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. Origin Energy hit over 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 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 dropped 28.72 points, or 1.35 percent, to end at 2,096.60, the lowest level since Oct. 2.

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

New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing slightly lower. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 17.33 points, or 0.16 percent, to 10,958.16. Shares of electricity generation company Contact Energy rallied 2.5 percent.

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

Singapore's Straits Times index was down over 1 percent even as official data showed the country's economy grew faster than initially estimated in the third quarter.

U.S. stocks closed lower overnight as China condemned a U.S. Senate resolution supporting human rights in Hong Kong and reports suggested that the U.S. and China remain divided over core issues of the "phase one" trade deal.

Traders also parsed the minutes of the October meeting of the Federal Reserve's interest-rate-setting committee, which suggested the bank will not likely change interest rates soon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 shed around 0.4 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index declined half a percent.

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