Asian stocks mixed on China data, HK falls after protests; oil declines on OPEC inaction

Energy Associated Press

Hong Kong stocks fell Monday following clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters and other Asian markets were mixed after a gauge of Chinese manufacturing declined.

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KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng index plunged 1.9 percent to 23,532.45 points after police used pepper spray and clubs against protesters demanding democratic reforms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6 percent to 2,699.70 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.9 to 17,615.90. Seoul's Kospi declined 0.8 percent to 1,964.67. Singapore, Jakarta and Sydney also declined, while Manila and New Zealand gained.

HONG KONG: Police charged protesters who tried to march to Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying's office after organizers said they would step up their campaign for democratic reforms. Pro-democracy activists oppose plans that call for a panel of Beijing-friendly elites to screen candidates for Hong Kong's first direct election of its leader in 2017. The conflict that began in late September has had little impact on Hong Kong's economy but analysts have warned it might hurt the territory's reputation as a business center.

CHINA FACTORIES: A survey by HSBC Corp. showed manufacturing activity weakened in November, adding to signs an economic slowdown is deepening. HSBC said its purchasing managers' index declined to 50.0 from the previous month's 50.4 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show activity contracting. The bank said domestic demand was sluggish and new orders were weak. China's economic growth slowed to a five-year low of 7.3 percent in the latest quarter.

THE QUOTE: "The November PMIs confirm that growth in China's industry remains under downward pressure," said Louis Kuijs of Royal Bank of Scotland in a report. "The surprisingly meager development of the new export order component in today's PMI indices suggests that global demand growth also remains subdued."

OIL PLUNGE: Oil prices fell further following last week's decision by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to maintain production levels despite weaker global demand. The U.S. benchmark fell more than 10 percent on Friday to below $70 per barrel for the first time since 2010 and is off 35 percent from its June high. That has battered energy shares but cheaper energy is a boost to import-dependent economies in Asia and elsewhere.

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ENERGY: The U.S. crude benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, tumbled $1.29 to $64.86 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract plunged $7.54 to close at $66.15. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell $1.70 to $68.45 per barrel. Brent is off 38 percent from its June high.

CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 118.91 yen from Friday's 118.61 yen. The euro was little changed at $1.2449 from $1.2448.