Asian Shares Retreat As China Crackdown Intensifies

Asian stocks retreated on Friday as the rout in Chinese technology giants deepened. A cautious undertone prevailed amid fears of slowing global growth and a potential easing in U.S. stimulus.

Chinese shares ended lower as the People’s Bank of China left its benchmark lending rate for corporate and household loans unchanged for a 16th straight month, as widely expected, amid weak economic data. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 38.22 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,427.33.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 1.8 percent at 24,849.72, with tech stocks suffering heavy losses after China’s National People’s Congress officially passed a law designed to protect online user data privacy.

Japanese shares ended near an eight-month low a day after Toyota Motor said it would slash global production for September by 40 percent due to the chip crisis. The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 267.92 points, or 1 percent, at 27,013.25, marking its lowest close since December 28. The broader Topix closed 0.9 percent lower at 1,880.68.

Toyota shares plunged 4.1 percent, while Honda Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan Motor plummeted 5-7 percent. Auto parts makers Denso and Aisin Seiki lost 8.8 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

Shippers also fell broadly, with Nippon Yusen and Kawasaki Kisen both ending down over 8 percent. Market heavyweight SoftBank Group tumbled 3.6 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing declined 1.6 percent.

In economic news, overall consumer prices in Japan were down 0.3 percent year-on-year July, official data showed. That missed expectations for a flat reading following the downwardly revised 0.5 percent contraction in June.

Australian shares fluctuated before ending marginally lower as the country struggled to contain the coronavirus situation, primarily in New South Wales.

Miners ended mixed, with BHP losing 0.7 percent, while Rio Tinto ended flat and Fortescue Metals Group rose 1.1 percent. Gold miners fell broadly, with Newcrest tumbling 3.3 percent.

Banks saw modest losses. Energy stocks ended mixed as oil edged up from three-month lows in Asian trade. Poultry producer Inghams group jumped 4.6 percent after its FY21 profit doubled.

Cochlear slumped 7.4 percent despite the meditech giant reporting record $1.4 billion in revenue. Sydney Airport edged down slightly after reporting a wider loss for the first half.

Seoul stocks fell sharply on concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve may start tapering its accommodative policy as early as the final quarter this year. The benchmark Kospi fell 37.32 points, or 1.2 percent, to settle at 3,060.51.

Top automaker Hyundai Motor lost 2.4 percent, while pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics rose 1.1 percent.

New Zealand shares ended slightly lower after two positive COVID-19 cases were detected in the capital city Wellington. The benchmark NZX-50 Index slipped 16.48 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,940.49.

U.S. stocks ended narrowly mixed overnight as data showed initial jobless claims fell to a new pandemic-era low in the week ended August 14th, adding to concerns the Federal Reserve could begin tapering stimulus this year.

The Dow slipped 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 both inched up 0.1 percent.

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