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A monitor displays stock market information at the New York Stock Exchange as Trump signals more measures against China, with Ant Group being a potential target. Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong stocks end four-day winning streak as Trump administration explores new restrictions on Chinese companies, targets Ant Group

  • Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 per cent, bucking gains in most markets in Asia-Pacific; Trump in new video vows to ‘make China pay’
  • Alibaba fell as much as 1 per cent while Tencent slipped 0.7 per cent before they pared losses
Hong Kong stocks slipped on Thursday as the Trump administration mulled new restrictions on Chinese companies, with digital payment platform operators Ant Group among newest potential targets. Casino stocks also weighed on the market.

The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 per cent to 24,193.35 at the close of trading to put an end to four consecutive days of advance. Most Asia-Pacific markets posted strong gains of 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent, while the mainland Chinese bourses remained shut for the ‘golden week’ holiday.

The local benchmark index has risen 3.1 per cent so far this month. It fell 6.8 per cent in September for its first drop in four months.

“The Hang Seng is down today because of potential new measures from the US on more Chinese companies” which affected sentiment, said Kenny Wen, wealth management strategist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai. “Also, tech stocks have been quite overbought recently.”

The US government was exploring restrictions on Ant Group and Tencent over concerns that their digital payment platforms would threaten national security, Bloomberg reported quoting people familiar with the matter. Separately, President Donald Trump, in a new video, also vowed to make China pay for damage caused by the coronavirus.
Ant Group, which is conducting a stock offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, said in a statement that it was unaware of any such discussions within the Trump administration, and that its business was primarily in China.

Tencent was little changed at HK$535, having earlier lost as much as 0.7 per cent in knee-jerk selling. Alibaba rebounded 0.5 per cent to HK$289.60 after losing as much as 1 per cent. Alibaba, the owner of this newspaper, owns about one-third of Ant Group.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi tumbled 3.9 per cent, leading losses among blue chips. Hong Kong developer property investment group Wharf REIC fell 3.6 per cent.

Casino stocks slid after a Macau government report on Thursday showed that tourist arrivals plunged 85.7 per cent during the October 1-7 golden week holiday, from the same festive holiday last year. Sands China retreated 2.8 per cent, while Galaxy Entertainment lost 2 per cent. Wynn Macau also fell 2.3 per cent.

In Hong Kong, city officials have also warned about stepping up efforts to prepare for a fourth wave of Covid-19 pandemic as the number of local infections increased. The government may consider mandatory testing to help staunch new outbreaks.

Chinese biopharmaceutical company Shanghai Henlius Biotech gained 6.4 per cent. The company announced on Wednesday that its Covid-19 antibody HLX70 had been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials.

Chinese drugs developer Shanghai Junshi Biosciences also rose 11.3 per cent. One of its antibodies used in combination with US drugs major Eli Lilly’s antibody have shown to be able to reduce recently-diagnosed Covid-19 patients’ viral load from as early as the third day in phase two trials, according to its exchange filing late Wednesday. The load was reduced significantly by the 11th day, it said.

Other markets in Asia rose. Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained almost 1 per cent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 1.1 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.2 per cent.

Additional reporting by Eric Ng.