Hong Kong jolts Asia amid protests, oil hovers near five-month low

Tens of thousands of protesters brought to a standstill and blocked government offices as crowds demonstrated against a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China

Tens of thousands of protesters brought to a standstill and blocked government offices as crowds demonstrated against a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China

USA shares were headed for a weak open as the future contract for the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2% to 26,017 while that for the S&P 500 also declined 0.2% to 2,882.

Chinese regulators should step up support for the economy and keep ample liquidity in the financial system, Vice Premier Liu He said on Thursday, suggesting Beijing would soon unveil more policies to bolster growth amid rising USA trade pressure. It had closed nearly 4% lower at $51.14 per barrel on Wednesday, weighed by concerns over rising stockpiles and a spiraling trade dispute between the US and China.

Tokyo shed 0.4 percent, Singapore down 0.4 percent and Wellington 0.1 percent off. Mumbai and Jakarta were also well down, while Sydney was marginally off.

The price of Brent crude oil, the worldwide standard, jumped almost 4% to $62.24 a barrel on the news.

Commander Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, said Thursday that the U.S. Navy was assisting two vessels involved in a "reported attack" near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped from around 2.50% in early May to 2.12% Wednesday. Maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global preliminarily identified the other vessel as the MT Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker. The reported attacks came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up a high-stakes visit in Tehran aimed at easing tensions between Iran and the United States.

Major thoroughfares were blocked by the protests as lawmakers prepared to debate the bill, which would allow extraditions to China and that many fear will hammer Hong Kong's reputation as an worldwide business hub.

Stocks sank in Hong Kong as the city was hit by huge protests that saw tens of thousands of people block key roads, businesses shut up shop and unions encourage members to miss work.

Campaigners have warned that the law would entangle people in the mainland's opaque courts and hammer Hong Kong's reputation as an worldwide business hub.

The Hang Seng Index fell 1.17 per cent, or 324.72 points to 27,464.62.

Traffic was restored Thursday but students and civil rights activists have pledged to keep protesting the legislation.

South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3% to 2,103.15 and the Nikkei 225 index in Japan lost 0.5% to 21,032.00. The Shanghai Composite index declined 0.6% to 2,909.38. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged less than 0.1% lower to 6,543.70. Shares fell in Taiwan but rose in Singapore and the Philippines.

While there was some profit-taking after the recent rises, investors are keeping their focus on developments in the China-US trade saga and an expected meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan this month. It rose 1 cent to $53.27 a barrel on Tuesday.

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