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=ASIA MARKETS: Regional Stocks Pull Back After Wall Street Retreat

HONG KONG (Feb 22) -- Hong Kong shares headed lower from a near seven-month high on Friday, tracking a retreat on Wall Street overnight, while U.S.-China trade talks progressed in Washington.

The Hang Seng Index fell 0.3% to 28,545.23 by noon after closing at its highest level since July 30 on Thursday. Internet services company Tencent Holdings declined 1.2% after rising for two days. Financial heavyweights China Construction Bank and AIA Group slipped 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively. The three stocks were the biggest contributors to losses by points on the gauge.

The three major U.S. equity indexes lost 0.4% each on Thursday after rising for at least three days in a row. Investors are waiting for the outcome of Sino-American trade talks taking place in Washington this week, as the March 1 end to a mutually agreed 90-day truce approaches. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has expressed his willingness to extend the deadline, is expected to meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House on Friday.

“A correction for the Hang Seng Index is long overdue,” said Francis Lun, chief executive officer at Geo Securities. “We have more positive news about U.S.-China coming up, with the terms for the deal. But I think a trade deal between the two countries is a bad thing for Chinese companies because China is giving too many concessions.”

China is proposing buying an additional $30 billion a year in U.S. agricultural products as part of the deal being negotiated, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the plan.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed, while the yuan slipped 0.1% against the dollar. Other markets in the region were lower, with the FTSE Bursa Malaysia Index slipping 0.7% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index shedding 0.4%. The Nikkei Asia300 Index fell 0.4%.

Lenovo Group jumped 4.1% to HK$6.94 in Hong Kong, extending an 11.9% surge on Thursday after the personal computer maker swung to a profit in the December quarter. Daiwa Capital Markets upgraded the stock to “outperform” from “hold” and raised its price target to HK$7.60 from HK$5.60.

Chipmaker ASM Pacific Technology fell 2.5% after reporting a 53.2% decrease in fourth-quarter net profit.

China New Higher Education Group rose 1.8% following a 13.4% tumble on Thursday. The company on Friday countered allegations of financial misdoing in a report by Empty City Research, saying they were misleading and unfounded and showed a lack of basic knowledge of the higher-education industry.

The report, released Thursday, alleged financial impropriety by the private-education company. Among other things the report identified a related-party transaction and the poor quality of education provided by the group.

Champion Real Estate Investment Trust rose 3.1% after reporting 8.3% increase in 2018 distributable income to HK$1.61 billion ($205 million).

Property-management company A-Living Services jumped 7.2% after saying it expects profit for 2018 to have increased to about 750 million yuan ($111.5 million) from 289.7 million yuan a year ago.

San Miguel Brewery Hong Kong, a unit of Manila-listed San Miguel, slipped 1.7% after saying it expects to have swung to a net loss for 2018.

AirAsia X slumped 10.3% in Kuala Lumpur after AirAsia Group’s long-haul arm swung to a fourth-quarter loss.

- By Amy Lam;; +852 3960 5150
- Edited By Suzannah Benjamin
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