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LONDON: Financial markets kicked off the week with fresh volatility on Monday, as Asian stocks tumbled, bitcoin soared and the dollar retreated.

Hong Kong stocks led the losses after Beijing at the weekend cracked down further on China’s tech firms, while education companies were hammered as the government unveiled sweeping reforms of the sector.

Broad Asian and European equity losses came also as traders continued to fret over the fast spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, which has sent infections spiking and forced some governments to reimpose economically painful lockdowns or other containment measures.

The Asian sell-off extended from Friday, despite a strong pre-weekend lead from Wall Street, where all three main indices ended at record highs with the Dow ending above 35,000 for the first time.

Tokyo closed higher Monday as traders returning from a Japanese public holiday caught up with gains made across last week.

“Uppermost in investors’ minds will be the Federal Reserve rate meeting” starting Tuesday, noted Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Investors will keep a close watch also over US economic growth data and earnings from some of the world’s biggest firms, including Apple and Amazon.

On Monday, Hong Kong’s main shares index sank by more than four percent with education companies battered after China unveiled reforms that will massively change the way they do business.

Beijing said the sector had been “hijacked by capital”, adding that it would prevent firms that teach school curriculums from making a profit, raising capital or going public.

JP Morgan Chase analysts said it was uncertain whether firms could continue to be traded on stock markets, adding that “in our view, this makes these stocks virtually un-investable”.

New Oriental Education & Technology Group lost almost half its value in Hong Kong, having shed 41 percent Friday as speculation about the move circulated on social media.

Its New York-listed shares plunged by 54 percent.

Koolearn Technology dived about a third and China Maple Leaf Educational Systems shed about 10 percent.

Tech firms also took a hit from Beijing’s latest moves against the sector as it told Tencent to relinquish its exclusive music label rights, saying the firm had violated antitrust laws.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin soared close to $40,000 after electric carmaker Tesla expressed fresh support for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.

The unit leapt by 15 percent in Asian trade to a one-month high at $39,681, buoyed also by reports that US retail titan Amazon was mulling the use of crypto technology.

Bitcoin then eased to $38,289 in European deals.

“The bulls are back in town, and this time it seems like they are back with a vengeance,” said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

“One of the biggest events was (Tesla boss) Elon Musk once again showing support for bitcoin and indicating the fact that Tesla would likely start accepting bitcoin again.”

The highly volatile digital currency has rocketed by around 30 percent since falling below $30,000 last week.

However, it still remains far from its record of close to $65,000 reached in April.


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