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Asian shares end mostly lower as investors eye Ukraine crisis

Asian shares were mostly lower on Monday after a retreat on Wall Street, as investors watched for developments in Ukraine after Russia rescinded earlier pledges to pull tens of thousands of its troops away from Ukraine’s northern border.

Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai declined while Sydney advanced.

Russia is a major energy producer and a military conflict also could disrupt energy supplies and make for extremely volatile energy prices.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.8% to 26,910.87, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 1.1% to 24,062.67. In Seoul, the Kospi gave up 0.2% to 2,739.59 and the Shanghai Composite index fell 0.4% to 3,476.47. India’s Sensex lost 0.2% and Thailand’s benchmark was 0.5% lower.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2% to 7,233.60 as the country reopened its borders to more international travel after nearly two years of being mostly sequestered due to the pandemic.

Outbreaks of coronavirus fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant are also a worry. A preliminary reading on factory data for Japan on Monday showed a sharp drop in the manufacturing purchasing manager’s index, to 52.9 from 55.4 on a 0-100 scale where readings above 50 indicate expansion.

But analysts said they expect activity to rebound as the latest wave of infections subsides.

In Australia, shares in AGL, the country’s biggest electricity generator, jumped 10% after it said it had rejected an 8 billion Australian dollar ($5.8 billion) takeover bid from tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian investment firm Brookfield.

Shares in software company Atlassian, founded by Cannon-Brookes, fell 2%.

On Friday, stocks capped a week of volatile trading on Wall Street with a broad sell-off.

The S&P 500 lost 0.7% to 4,348.87 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average also slipped 0.7%, to 34,079.18. The Nasdaq composite bore the brunt of the selling, skidding 1.2% to 12,548.07. Small company stocks also fell, with the Russell 2000 index down 0.9% to 2,009.33.

Treasury yields fell Friday, as investors shifted money into the safety of US bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, was steady at 1.93% early Monday.

Markets have been hit by worries over how companies will cope with inflation at decades-high levels in many countries, and over whether consumers might pull back on spending to cope with higher costs for most things.

Wall Street is looking ahead to determine how markets will react to a more aggressive monetary policy from the US Federal Reserve as it begins tightening after two years of ultra-low interest rates and other supportive measures.