Asian stocks retreat on Hong Kong protests and weak data

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Asian stocks fell for the fourth consecutive day as political protests in Hong Kong show no signs of abating and US consumer confidence unexpectedly fell.

The regional benchmark MSCI Asia Pacific index closed down 0.3% on Thursday.

Better-than-expected China manufacturing data failed to provide a lift after its official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) held at 51.1 in September.

A reading above 50 indicates growth, while any below shows a contraction.

Markets had been expecting the PMI reading to fall to 51.0 and today's figure should provide some relief to investors concerned about a slowdown in China.

"Today's official PMI suggests the while conditions have held up better than many had expected, domestic demand remains subdued," Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics said.

"The economy has held up better than the sharp slowdown in the August activity data suggested."

China and Hong Kong's stock markets are closed for the National Day public holiday.

However, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.6% lower after the closely-watched Tankan survey showed sentiment among the country's large manufacturers improved in the last three months.

The yen also slipped to a six-year low against the US dollar following the Tankan survey.

Political unrest

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hong Kong is facing its worst political unrest in decades

In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators are continuing to occupy the city's main commercial areas for a sixth day.

They are demanding that Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying respond to demands for his resignation and for free elections in the city.

The city is bracing itself for bigger protests on Wednesday, which also marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Several celebrations marking China's National Day have been cancelled because of the protests, which saw riot police use tear gas against the crowds over the weekend.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 1.3% lower on Tuesday, having lost 1.9% the day before.

Ryan Huang, an analyst at IG Markets said its outlook remains "bearish".

"The popular stock market belief that September is the worst month for investing is ringing true this time, especially in the case of the Hang Seng Index," he said in a research note.

"With China's National Day Holidays starting on October 1, there are concerns the protests will keep tourists away from Hong Kong. Financial, retail and tourism-related stocks have suffered the brunt of the market selloff so far."