Asia stocks mixed; shares of SMIC in Hong Kong plummet as U.S.-China tech tensions rise

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets were mixed in Monday trade, as investors reacted to rising tech tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Mainland Chinese stocks shed earlier gains and were lower by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite down 0.16% while the Shenzhen component shed 0.74%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was fractionally higher.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China’s largest chip manufacturer, plunged nearly 20% by the afternoon. It came after a U.S. Defense Department spokesperson said President Donald Trump’s administration is considering imposing export restrictions on the firm.

SMIC is seen as an important player in China’s ambition to grow its domestic semiconductor industry. The potential move by Washington, first reported by Reuters, would mark a major escalation in the tech battle between the U.S. and China.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was 0.35% lower while the Topix index shed 0.22%. South Korea’s Kospi was 0.75% higher. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 traded fractionally lower.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was little changed.

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Meanwhile, data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed Monday that the country’s dollar-denominated exports rose 9.5% from a year ago while imports declined 2.1% in the same period.

Economists in a Reuters poll had expected a 7.1% rise in the August export figure from a year ago, while imports were forecast to edge 0.1% higher in the same period.

Oil prices slip

Oil prices slipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1.01% to $42.23 per barrel. U.S. crude futures declined 1.21% to $39.29 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.872 after its ascent last week from levels below 92.0.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.26 per dollar after weakening last week from levels below 105.6 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7283 after last week’s slip from levels above $0.732.

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