Asian stock benchmarks were mostly lower on Wednesday as investors watched for the latest developments in the standoff between U.S. President Donald Trump and his former FBI director. Japanese shares fell as the yen gained against the dollar.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent to 19,814.88 and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,292.16. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.2 percent to 25,295.01. Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.2 percent to 3,106.17. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 sank 1.1 percent to 5,786.00. Taiwan’s benchmark index fell but markets in Southeast Asia were mixed.
U.S. POLITICS: Analysts said investors were concerned over the outlook for the Trump administration following revelations that FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo that the president had asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. That allegation was preceded by news that the president had disclosed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and the country’s ambassador to the United States. Trump tweeted Tuesday that he had “an absolute right” as president to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia.
ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “As reporting intensifies on Trump’s potential mishandling of classified information, and renewed speculations on the rationale of his dismissal of Comey, markets are becoming concerned whether key legislation on tax reforms could be deferred or derailed,” Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary.
WALL STREET: Most U.S. stock markets fell in subdued trading on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 0.1 percent to 2,400.67. The Dow Jones industrial average was steady at 20,979.75. But the Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent to 6,169.87, another record high.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 24 cents to $48.42 per barrel on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 19 cents to close at $48.66 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 27 cents to $51.38 per barrel in London. It lost 17 cents to settle at $51.65 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: In currency trading, the dollar fell to 112.34 yen from 113.11 yen. The euro gained to $1.1110 from $1.1085.