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Japan, Hong Kong drop as Asia-Pacific markets slip amid renewed Covid fears

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific dropped on Friday, with stocks in Hong Kong and Japan leading losses regionally as fears of a new Covid variant weighed on investor sentiment.

World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with “a large number of mutations.” A special meeting is scheduled for Friday to discuss its implications for vaccines and treatments.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index saw sharp losses on Friday, falling 2.67% to close at 24,080.52. The variant has been detected in Hong Kong, according to South Africa’s Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan dropped 2.53% to close at 28,751.62 while the Topix index fell 2.01% to 1,984.98. Shares of SoftBank Group plummeted 5.19% following a Bloomberg report that Chinese regulators have asked Didi, which the Japanese conglomerate holds a sizable stake in, to delist from the U.S.

In mainland China, the Shanghai composite declined 0.56% to close at 3,564.09 while the Shenzhen component finished the trading day 0.342% lower at 14,777.17.

South Korea’s Kospi closed 1.47% lower at 2,936.44.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia fell 1.73% on the day to 7,279.30. Australia’s retail sales in October jumped 4.9% month-on-month, seasonally adjusted, according to official estimates released Friday. That was far higher than the 2.5% increase predicted in a Reuters poll.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 2.18%.

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