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Most Asian stocks decline amid Iraq violence

Most Asian stocks decline amid Iraq violence

Most Asian shares declined on Monday in late morning trade fell as crude extended gains and tested nine-month highs on fears the insurgency in Iraq could worsen and affect oil exports.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.2% to 144 as of 9:37 a.m. in Hong Kong. Japan’s Topix index slid 0.4% and South Korea’s Kospi index retreated 0.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.3% and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.1%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index retreated 0.2%, while Taiwan’s Taiex Index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index both sank 0.1%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1%.

An escalation of violence in the Middle East pushed oil prices higher and contributed to declines in Asia-Pacific equities on the final two trading days last week. Army troops killed more than 270 rebels yesterday in Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest crude producer, as the prospect of civil war intensifies with Sunni Muslim insurgents controlling territory north of Baghdad.

Brent LCOc1 rose about 0.6% to $113.20 per barrel, after touching $114.69 on Friday, its highest since September.

In corporate news, Korean Air Lines Co. sank 1.9%, pacing a retreat among industrial firms as Brent crude oil prices advanced.

Panasonic Corp. led consumer shares lower, dropping 1.2% in Tokyo.

Echo Entertainment Group Ltd. surged 7.9% in Sydney after the casino operator said its profit forecast is above market expectations.

Investors will be focusing on the US Federal Reserve this week, which will conclude a policy meeting on Wednesday. Markets will be watching for any signals on when the US central bank might begin increasing interest rates.

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