Asian stocks are mixed amid US political turmoil
Singapore — Asian stocks were mixed on Friday, while the dollar surrendered some of the overnight gains it made on strong economic data amid ongoing political turbulence around US President Donald Trump.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.1%, on track for a weekly loss of 0.5%. Japan’s Nikkei reversed early gains to trade 0.15% lower, extending declines for the week to 1.8% for the week.
Chinese shares added 0.1%, up 0.4% for the week. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.2%, set for a weekly rise of 0.1%.
"The trend we have seen with Asian markets this morning has been one of mixed performances," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
"While US markets managed to stage a moderate recovery with investors finding good entry points after the heavy sell-off, Asian investors are likely choosing to err on the cautious side, especially with multiple event risks in the week ahead."
These events included testimony by former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey at a Senate hearing and an Opec meeting in Vienna, she added.
Trump’s dismissal of Comey last week set off a political firestorm that culminated on Wednesday in Wall Street’s biggest sell-off in more than eight months.
The Justice Department’s appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign helped calm markets and lifted Wall Street on Thursday.
The Dow gained 0.3%, the S&P was up 0.4% and the Nasdaq jumped 0.7%.
"We could be just shaking off the jitters here. Yesterday, investors were really worried," said Janna Sampson, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
"Whatever the [investigation] result, people feel they might have confidence it’s an accurate, unbiased result," she said.
MSCI’s emerging markets index extended losses by 0.15% on Friday.
It posted its lowest close in almost two weeks on Thursday, dragged down by an 8.8% slump in Brazilian stocks, on a report that President Michel Temer supported an attempt to bribe a potential witness to remain silent in the country’s biggest-ever graft probe.
The Brazilian real was fractionally weaker at 3.3685 against the dollar early on Friday, after plunging as much as 8.5% to its lowest level since December on Thursday.
Strong economic indicators from the US helped lift the dollar overnight, but it slipped back on Friday.
It weakened 0.25% to ¥111.225, erasing some of Thursday’s 0.6% gain, and was set for a 1.8% fall over the week.
Data showed a sharp acceleration in factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region in May, and an unexpected drop in new applications for unemployment benefits.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was slightly lower at 97.824, after gaining 0.3% on Thursday. It’s set to end the week 1.4% lower.
Sterling was little changed at $1.2945.
On Thursday, it broke through $1.30 for the first time in almost eight months after news of better than expected British retail sales growth helped ease concern about the broader economy. But it fell back on technical selling to close 0.2% lower.
The euro was little changed at $1.11 on Friday. It touched a six-month high on Thursday but surrendered the gains as the dollar advanced to close 0.5% lower.
In commodities, oil prices continued their gains for the third consecutive session, set to post a 4% rise, on optimism that producers will agree to rein in output for longer.
US crude futures hit a three-week high, and were last trading up 0.8% to $49.75 a barrel.
Global benchmark Brent was up 0.7% at $52.88, after touching a four-week high earlier in the session.
Gold inched higher, clawing back some of Thursday’s losses. Spot gold added 0.25% to $1,249.84/oz, set to post a weekly gain of 1.7%.