Asia Markets: Asian markets slip on renewed geopolitical uncertainty

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Asian markets retreated in early trading Wednesday amid new uncertainty involving Brexit and Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won Parliament’s backing for the substance of his exit deal but lost a key vote on its timing, a result that inches him closer to his goal of leading his country out of the European Union — but effectively guarantees it won’t happen on the scheduled date of Oct. 31. The votes plunge the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: acrimonious uncertainty.

Late Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that China is preparing plans to replace embattled Hong Kong administrator Carrie Lam, whose government has been the subjects of massive pro-democracy protests for five months. The report said a new administrator could be in place by March.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.74%   fell 0.6%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.19%   and Shenzhen Composite 399106, -0.22%   posted fractional losses. Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.04%   was about flat while South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -0.32%   slipped 0.6%. Benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, -0.20%  , Singapore STI, -0.56%   and Indonesia JAKIDX, -0.30%   dipped, but stocks rose slightly in Malaysia FBMKLCI, -0.44%  . Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.22%   declined 0.2%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, -2.58%   fell in Tokyo trading after announcing a deal to take over WeWork, offering the beleaguered startup a $5 billion lifeline. Rakuten 4755, -2.73%   and Sony 6758, -1.84%   also declined. In Hong Kong, tech companies AAC 2018, -2.98%  and Tencent 700, -1.65%   dropped, along with oil producer CNOOC 883, -1.51%  . Apple component maker LG Display 034220, -2.07%   and chip maker SK Hynix 000660, -1.14%   sank in South Korea. Beach Energy BPT, -0.43%   and National Australia Bank NAB, -0.95%   declined in Australia.