Asian Markets Mixed; Hong Kong Stocks Down as Government Weighs Banning Face Masks

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© Reuters. © Reuters. – Asian markets were mixed in morning trade on Friday. Hong Kong stocks opened higher but turned red after multiple reports said the government may ban face masks at public gatherings as a way to deter protesters.

The Hang Seng Index was down 0.4% by 10:30 PM ET (02:30 GMT).

Reports late Thursday said the government would use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact the ban after a special meeting of the city’s Executive Council on Friday.

It will be the first time in more than half a century to ban face masks at public gatherings.

David Roche, founder and strategist at research firm Independent Strategy, told CNCB in an interview that he thinks Hong Kong has reached a point of “no return.”

“There is no return to what Hong Kong was. I don’t see the social situation being easily resolved, and I don’t see it getting better. So my forecast is pretty gloomy,” he said.

Chinese markets remain closed for the Golden Week holiday. Officials from Beijing and Washington will meet next week for a new round of trade discussions.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was little changed at 21,338.50.

South Korea’s KOSPI inched up 0.1%.

Down under, Australia’s ASX 200 gained 0.2%.

Overnight, the U.S. stocks closed higher, with the NASDAQ gaining more than 1%.

Traders look ahead to the key monthly American non-farm payrolls data due later in the day. Subsequent comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is also expected to generate some attention.

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