The major Asia-Pacific stocks indexes were mostly lower early Monday with some regional markets closed for holidays. Shares in Hong Kong and South Korea were pressured by rising tensions between the United States and China. Meanwhile, markets in China, Japan and Thailand were closed for holidays.
At 02:12 GMT, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is trading 23785.98, down 857.61, or -3.48%. South Korea’s KOSPI Index is at 1909.83, down 37.73 or -1.94% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 is trading 5249.20, up 3.30 or +0.06%.
Tensions Rise between Washington and Beijing
Tensions between the United States and China continued to rise over the weekend in response to comments from the nation’s top spy agency from Thursday that it had determined that the coronavirus was not man made but was still investigating whether it was caused by “an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.
A Department of Homeland Security intelligence report date Friday, however, found that officials in China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the contagion, according to the Associated Press, which reported on the document Sunday. The report found that the country hid details about coronavirus in order to horde medical supplies.
China has rejected claims that the virus escaped a research center in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said Sunday that he believed that a “mistake” in China was the cause of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, though he did not present any evidence for the claim.
“I think they made a horrible “mistake” and didn’t want to admit it,” Trump said. “My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like a fire,” Trump said. “You know, it’s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “a significant amount of evidence” suggested that the virus emerged from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.
Additionally, last Thursday, President Trump threatened to hit China with new tariffs.
The U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have been waging competing propaganda battles amid the public health crisis, with leaders in each country seeking to pin the blame elsewhere and claim the mantle of global leadership.
The price action in the Asia-Pacific markets early Monday suggests that investors believe there is more to the story and that the situation is close to a boiling point. In the meantime, Trump said the government was putting together a report that will be “very conclusive.”
This article was originally posted on FX Empire