Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday amid U.S. political uncertainties following President Donald Trump’s dismissal of the FBI chief. Investors also were cautious ahead of a meeting of finance ministers from wealthy nations to discuss economic growth. But Chinese markets rose after news of a new trade deal with Washington.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to 19,882.29 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.5 percent to 2,286.02. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent higher to 25,155.42 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China was 0.7 percent higher at 3,082.81. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 percent to 5,832.30. Benchmarks in Taiwan fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.
TRUMP’S TROUBLES: The continuing fallout over President Donald Trump’s unprecedented firing of FBI Director James Comey is making investors wary of taking on more risk and raises questions about whether he can follow through on his business-friendly agenda, analysts said.
QUOTEWORTHY: ”The political noise continues to escalate over Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. ”This storyline has clearly rattled equity investors, given this political cloud could cripple the fragile support for Trump’s tax policy.”
GROUP OF SEVEN: Finance ministers from seven of the world’s advanced economies are set to gather in Italy this weekend. The officials from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States are expected to discuss ways to promote broad-based economic growth. Also on the agenda: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will explain Trump’s plans to cut business taxes and regulations and outline the administration’s economic policies, including its stance on trade. Officials will be keen to hear insight into Trump’s views on trade policy amid rising protectionist sentiment.
CHINA-US TRADE: A trade deal announced Thursday would allow U.S. companies to ship liquefied natural gas to China and tackles a range of long-standing barriers, ending a ban on imports of U.S. beef and moving a step closer to allowing Chinese poultry on American supermarket shelves. It covers a range of long-standing barriers from agriculture to energy to the operation of American financial firms in China.
DATA DUMP: Investors are awaiting reports that could provide fresh insight into the health of the global economy. The figures due out include U.S. inflation and retail sales numbers, a report on German quarterly economic growth, and Chinese money supply and credit data.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks finished modestly lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 2,394.44. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 20,919.42. The Nasdaq composite declined 0.2 percent to 6,115.96.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures extended gains, rising 5 cents to $47.88 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to settle at $47.83 per barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 23 cents to $50.99 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 113.76 yen from 113.86 yen in late Thursday trading. The euro strengthened to $1.0865 from $1.0862.