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November, 28: Five things to know to start the day

Demonstrators hold US National Flags during a rally in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. Protesters gathered in the city's central district in a police-sanctioned rally in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill proposed in the U.S. to impose sanctions on the city. Photographer: Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg

Trump signs Hong Kong Bill backing protesters. Investors are losing interest in mainland China stocks. Concerns rise after third Hong Kong stock in a week sees huge plunge. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

Trump Signs

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that expresses U.S. support for Hong Kong protesters, a move that will strain relations with China and further complicate the president’s effort to wind down his trade war with Beijing. The legislation requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law, and sanctions against any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. China’s foreign ministry had urged Trump to prevent the legislation from becoming law, warning the Americans it “will take strong countermeasures” against it. The new U.S. law comes just as Washington and Beijing have shown signs of working toward what the White House calls a “phase-one” deal to ease the trade war.

Losing Interest

What’s poised to be China’s biggest listing since 2015 faces a headwind: investors are losing interest in mainland stocks. State-owned lender Postal Savings Bank of China is looking to raise around 28.4 billion yuan ($4 billion) in what would be the largest onshore share sale since 2015. It follows a flurry of initial public offerings that have faded quickly, amid slumping trading activity and a steady decline in new stock accounts that signals a lack of exuberance in China’s market. One of China’s largest state-owned lenders, Postal Bank would potentially be the world’s fourth-largest listing this year behind Alibaba’s $11 billion share sale this month, Uber’s $8.1 billion IPO in May and that of Budweiser in September.

Wild Volatility

Concern is rising that Hong Kong has become a breeding ground for wild volatility after the third stock in a week suddenly lost most of its value. China First Capital Group, an investment company that focuses on financial and education services, plunged as much as 78% on Wednesday before trading was suspended. Last week,  ArtGo Holdings slumped 98% after MSCI  scrapped plans to add the stock to its benchmark indexes, citing concerns about investability. That same day, a Chinese furniture maker fell as much as 91% after a short-seller questioned the company’s accounting. While Hong Kong is no stranger to sudden stock slumps, the fresh wave of declines is once again putting the spotlight on corporate governance at the city’s listed companies.

Market Boost

U.S. futures slipped and the yen nudged higher after President Donald Trump signed a bill backing Hong Kong protesters. The yuan retreated. Futures pared gains in Japan as did shares in Sydney. Earlier, the S&P 500 hit a fresh record and the yield on 10-year Treasuries climbed after data on U.S. gross domestic product and claims for unemployment beat analysts’ expectations. The pound rose as a poll suggested the U.K.’s December election could deliver a large majority for the Conservative Party.

Fight Club

A spat between an Australian property manager and a Singapore rival that’s become its biggest investor is set to intensify when shareholders meet in Brisbane today. Australia’s Cromwell Property Group will adjust the makeup of its board at the annual general meeting, and it’s urging shareholders to vote against the election of Gary Weiss, who is backed by Singapore’s ARA Asset Management Ltd. The nomination comes as ARA pursues a campaign to change Cromwell’s business strategy and boost the stock’s value. Cromwell argues that ARA is trying to exert control without paying for the privilege, and with a future listing in mind. What’s more, Cromwell says Weiss is conflicted because he sits on the boards of companies including Straits Trading Co., which holds shares in ARA. For its part, ARA says Weiss isn’t involved in any commercial transactions or management that would result in conflicts.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.


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