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Asian shares mostly fall as market eyes US-China trade talks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower Monday as investors watched for developments in the trade conflict between the U.S. and China, with talks set to continue this week. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged 0.4% lower to 21,568.48, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5% to 6,828.10. South Korea's Kospi lost 1.6% to 2,032.36, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 1.5% to 27,982.44, and the Shanghai Composite dipped nearly 0.3% to 2,937.20.

Hong Kong's benchmark sagged after another weekend of protests in Hong Kong, where police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back demonstrators. The demonstrations began early last month in opposition to an extradition bill that has since been suspended, but the movement has become a broader push for full democracy.

Weighing on regional investor sentiments is the dispute between the U.S and China, locked in a trade war over American allegations that Beijing is using predatory practices, including outright cybertheft, to challenge U.S. technological dominance.

Negotiators are due to meet in Shanghai beginning Tuesday, resuming talks for the first time since they collapsed in May, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other officials have remained low key about prospects for a breakthrough.

"The US has kept the expectations muted and the best case scenario is a reset to where talks left off in May," Alfonso Esparza of Oanda said in a commentary. U.S. stocks were pushed to record highs last week as expectations for an interest rate cut gain ground. A government report on Friday also showed U.S. economic growth slowed in the spring, but was still better than economists expected.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.7% to 3,025.86, surpassing the record set on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial average gained 0.2% to 27,192.45 and the Nasdaq composite also set a record after jumping 1.1%, to 8,330.21.

The European Central Bank earlier this week held its key interest rate steady, but made it clear that more stimulus is on the way. The Bank of Japan began a two-day policy board meeting Monday but is expected to keep rates unchanged.

In the United States, investors are all but certain the Fed will cut its benchmark short-term rate on Wednesday, likely by a quarter of a percentage point from its current range of 2.25% to 2.50%. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. oil fell 14 cents to $56.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 18 cents to $56.20 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, dipped 24 cents to $63.13 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.59 Japanese yen from 108.68 yen on Friday. The euro slipped to $1.1126 from $1.1129.

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