TOKYO — Shares retreated Wednesday and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped nearly 2% as thousands continued protests against proposed legislation that many city residents fear could further erode the territory’s legal autonomy.
In early European trading, Germany’s DAX lost 0.6% to 12,079.26 and the CAC 40 in France dropped 0.6% to 5,377.20. Britain’s FTSE 100 skidded 0.6% to 7,355.99. U.S. shares were headed for a weak open as the future contract for the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.3% to 25,997.00 while that for the S&P 500 declined 0.3% to 2,879.40.
The Hang Seng lost 1.9% to 27,264.54 as thousands of protesters, most of them youths, prevented lawmakers from entering Hong Kong’s government headquarters Wednesday.
The demonstrations snarled traffic and delayed a legislative debate on a bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China, a proposal that is sharpening fears over growing Chinese control and an erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory.
The crowds overflowed onto a major downtown road as they overturned barriers and tussled with police, who used multiple rounds of tear gas and threatened to use more forceful measures if necessary.
The proposed legal changes have spooked investors, Stephen Innes of SPI-Asset Management said in a commentary, as it “could have far-reaching consequences for attracting overseas talent and does question the viability of Hong Kong as a leading financial hub, which of course is spooking property investors.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4% to 21,129.72 and the Kospi in Seoul shed 0.1% to 2,108.75. 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 rose in Taiwan but fell in Jakarta and Thailand.
On Wall Street, defense contractors suffered steep declines and technology stocks gave