Stocks in Asia slipped on Tuesday as tensions remained high in Hong Kong amid increasingly violent protests.
The Hang Seng index fell 1.88%, as of its final hour of trading. The city’s airport reopened on Tuesday after operations were crippled on Monday due to demonstrators staging a sit-in at the airport.
One economist described the situation in Hong Kong as “very disconcerting.”
“The escalation of the methodology of protesters is inviting escalation of the response by the government, so clearly the risk of a stronger clampdown is on the rise and that has market implications,” Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief China economist at Credit Agricole, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Tuesday.
He added: “There is still a lot that can be done in the sort of regular course of procedural actions by the Hong Kong police so we are still hoping that the situation may somehow calm down using … the regular police tactics.”
In mainland China, shares slipped on the day. The Shanghai composite slipped 0.63% to 2,797.26, while the Shenzhen component declined 0.85% to 8,902.63. The Shenzhen composite shed 0.687% to 1,498.63.
Amid the political turmoil in Hong Kong, flagship carrier Cathay Pacific saw its stock drop more than 2%, while Bocom International cut its rating on the stock from “buy” to “neutral,” citing expected falling demand due to the ongoing unrest, among other factors.
Meanwhile, shares of Shenzhen Airport soared 10.02%.
Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan dropped 1.11% to close at 20,455.44 following its return from a holiday, while the Topix index shed 1.15% to end its trading day at 1,486.57 — falling below its last close of 2018.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index shed 1.23%.
Chinese yuan watch
The People’s Bank of China set the official midpoint reference rate for the yuan at 7.0326 per dollar on Tuesday, stronger than expected but above the psychologically important 7-yuan-per-dollar level for the fourth consecutive session.
The Chinese currency has been closely watched by investors in recent days after it weakened past the 7 level against the greenback last week, leading the U.S. Treasury Department to designate China a currency manipulator.
Singapore cuts economic growth forecast
Singapore revised its 2019 gross domestic product forecast downward on Tuesday amid concerns over the global economic outlook and fears of impending recession in the country.
The Straits Times index was last down 0.86%.
Often seen as a bellwether for global growth due to the city-state’s heavy reliance on international trade rather than its domestic economy, Singapore cut its GDP forecast range to 0-1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% estimate.
“Singapore’s sobering downward assessment of 2019 growth outlook is a perhaps the most telling sign that the world is now bracing for worse; even as it hopes for better,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, wrote in a note.
ASIA-PACIFIC MARKET INDEXES CHART
|NIKKEI||Nikkei 225 Index||NIKKEI||20655.13||199.69||0.98|
|HSI||Hang Seng Index||HSI||25302.28||20.98||0.08|
|ASX 200||S&P/ASX 200||ASX 200||6595.90||27.40||0.42|
|CNBC 100||CNBC 100 ASIA IDX||CNBC 100||7652.73||25.00||0.33|
Currencies and oil
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.564 after touching an earlier low of 97.444.
Emerging market currencies were also watched on Tuesday by investors for signs of contagion following the Argentine peso’s sharp fall against the dollar on Monday after the country’s leader lost the first round of elections by a far greater margin than expected. The Argentine peso shed nearly 25% of its value to around 59 per dollar shortly after trading opened.
Oil prices declined in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures slipping 0.63% to $58.20 per barrel and U.S. crude futures shedding 0.56% to $54.62 per barrel.