H.K. Leads Losses as Trade Tensions Remain

Stocks in Asia were lower on Friday as investors continued to watch for developments on U.S.-China trade following a recent escalation in tensions over Hong Kong.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 faltered 115.23 points, or 0.5%, to finish the week and the month at 23,293.91.

The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency in times of market uncertainty, changed hands at 109.49 against the U.S. dollar after seeing an earlier low of 109.59.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index tumbled 547.24 points, or 2%, to 26,346.49, with shares of life insurer AIA dropping 2.2%.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped, as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor fell 2.4%. The Bank of Korea announced on Friday its decision to keep the benchmark interest rate steady at 1.25%, in line with expectations of economists

The Australian dollar was at $0.6772 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6761.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 dropped 33.63 points, or 0.9%, to 3,828.67

Following the signing of bills by U.S. President Donald Trump in support of Hong Kong protesters on Wednesday, investors continue to assess the potential impact on ongoing trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

China strongly condemned the actions of the U.S., with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying Thursday that Washington had "sinister intentions."

Hong Kong has been rocked by months of civil unrest initially sparked by a since-withdrawn extradition bill.

That comes as an anticipated "phase one" trade deal between the U.S. and China remains elusive ahead of Dec. 15, when additional tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. are set to go into effect.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex fell 127.51 points, or 1.1%, to 11,489.57

In Korea, the Kospi slumped 30.64 points, or 1.5%, to 2,087.97

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index decreased 6.69 points, or 0.2%, to 3,193.92

In New Zealand, the NZX went against the tide and actually gained 108.29 points, or 1%, to 11,316.58

In Australia, the ASX 200 reversed 18 points, or 0.3%, to 6,846