Hong Kong Falls on Emergency Law

Hong Kong stocks fell on Friday after the city’s leader Carrie Lam announced a ban on face masks, effective October 5, amid more than four months of pro-democracy, anti-government protests.

The Nikkei 225 regained 68.46 points, or 0.3%, to 21,410.20

The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency in times of market turmoil, traded at 106.77 against the U.S. dollar after strengthening from levels above 108 earlier in the week.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 289.28 points, or 1.1%, to 25,821.03. Shares of public rail system operator MTR, which has seen its infrastructure damaged amid the unrest in the city, fell 1.9%.

In a press conference, Lam said the face mask ban was necessary because "almost all protesters who carry out vandalism and violence covered their face." The latest development came following weeks of protests in the embattled city that have periodically degenerated into violence.

Korean markets descended as shares of Hyundai Motor declined 1.6%.

Australia closed lower as shares of biotechnology firm CSL surged 3.2%. The moves came as Australian retail sales data for August came in below expectations but higher than the previous month.

Retail sales on a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis rose 0.4% in August, as compared to a flat outcome in July and against expectations of a 0.5% increase in an economist poll.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6757 after rising from levels below $0.672 yesterday.

Markets in mainland China remained shuttered for holiday.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index returned to trading after a holiday to lost 11.22 points, or 0.6%, to 2,020.69

In Taiwan, the Taiex index gained 18.57 points, or 0.2%, to 10,894.48

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slipped 9.61 points, or 0.3%, to 3,078.36

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 restocked 71.62 points, or 0.7%, to 10,892.82

In Australia, the ASX 200 recouped 24.09 points, or 0.4%, to 6,517.08