Unrest in Hong Kong over Beijing’s proposed national security laws has weighed on global shares and oil prices, offsetting optimism about the reopening of the world economy.

Riot police fired pepper pellets on protesters in Hong Kong’s main business district on Wednesday, rekindling concern about the protests seen last year that hit the territory’s economy.

MSCI’s ex-Japan Asia-Pacific index fell 0.4 per cent, as Hong Kong and mainland China shares extended declines. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.0 per cent and mainland shares were down 0.8 per cent, amid fears the protests would worsen tensions between the United States and China.

MSCI’s index of the world’s 49 stock markets was flat but still close to two-and-a-half-month highs reached on hopes of economic recovery in the developed world as countries ease social restrictions.

Oil prices fell amid US-China tensions and concern over how quickly fuel demand will recover as lockdowns ease. Brent crude futures dropped 1.5 per cent, to $US35.62. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 1.6 per cent, at $US33.79 a barrel.

Still, European shares remained buoyed by hopes for a post- COVID-19 recovery. The STOXX 600 added 0.4 per cent to reach its highest level since March 10. Britain’s FTSE gained 1 per cent and the domestically focused FTSE 250 hit an 11-week high as thousands of retailers prepared to re-open on June 1 from a months-long shutdown.

The European Commission is set to introduce a plan to help the European Union economy recover from its coronavirus slump with a mix of grants, loans and guarantees exceeding 1 trillion euros.

“You have two elements going in the right direction. You have the end of lockdown going quite well and PMI (purchasing managers’ index) data showing the ability of economies to recover in the second half of the year is still there,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners.

“A lot of good news has been integrated in markets already, but I wouldn’t chase them higher as there’s still some complacency and there will be a consolidation.”

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.5 per cent to near their two-and-a-half-month high touched the previous day. The index had cleared 3,000 points in Wall Street overnight before pulling back, as some traders returned to the New York Stock Exchange floor for the first time in two months.

But China remained in focus after US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he was preparing to take action against China this week over its effort to impose national security laws on Hong Kong.

Worsening relations between the world’s two biggest economies could further hobble global business activity, which is already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

The dollar, measured against a basket of currencies, rose 0.1 per cent to 99.146.

The Chinese yuan weakened to the lowest levels since early September in both onshore and offshore trade. The onshore renminbi slipped 0.3 to as low as 7.1595 per dollar; the offshore currency fell 0.4 per cent to 7.1760 per dollar.

The euro dropped 0.2 per cent to $US1.0961, as investors waited for the European Commission to release details of its financial rescue fund.

The German 10-year government bond yield fell after reaching a one-month high on Tuesday. It was last down 2 basis points at -0.442 per cent.

Italy’s 10-year government bond yield barely changed, last at 1.552 per cent.

US Treasury yields rose, with ten-year yields at 0.687 per cent, up about 4 basis points from Tuesday.

Gold prices dropped to a two-week low, before paring some losses to trade down 0.1 per cent to $US1,709.00 per ounce.

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