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Asia shares slip after worst S&P 500 loss in nearly four weeks

MITO, Japan (AP) — Worsening China-U.S. friction, worries over aid to Americans and U.S. businesses and a stumble on Wall Street combined to push shares in Asia lower on Friday.

Shares fell in Hong Kong, Sydney and Shanghai. Tokyo’s markets were closed for a national holiday.

Trump administration officials have escalated their public condemnations of China in the last several weeks, with speeches by FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

China was expected Friday to announce the closure of one of the U.S. consulates, most likely in Chengdu, after the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston earlier this week.

The latest dust up comes amid allegations of theft of U.S. intellectual property — including by Chinese researchers with military and government connections — for Beijing’s benefit.

“Alongside the eviction of the Houston Chinese Consulate, the risk of the U.S.-China conflict escalating into a “Cold War” is worrying,” said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank.

A speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s saying that “securing our freedom from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time” adds to the rhetoric certain to incense Beijing, making it still more difficult for either side to back down, he said.

“And so, while the inevitability of deteriorating US-China relations as a structural feature of our geo-political landscape was never in doubt, the shifts appear to be hastened.”

The Shanghai Composite index led regional losses, shedding 1.7% to 3,268.58. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.5% to 24,879.96 and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gave up 1% to 6,031.50. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1% lower to 2,213.68.

Analysts said investors also are wary over the unclear prognosis for further stimulus for the U.S. economy, just as the end of a previous package of extra support for those made jobless by the pandemic looms.

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