Asian stocks were mostly lower on the last day of the trading week, as investors remained cautious on reports of possible personnel turmoil in the Trump administration, and its plans to hike tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.2 percent to $586.67 on Friday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 relinquished earlier gains, ending the session with a 0.5 percent drop to ¥21,676.51, but was still higher by 1 percent for this week. The TOPIX slipped 0.4 percent to ¥1,736.63.
South Korea’s KOSPI on the other hand, gained 0.06 percent to ₩2,493.97, as tech group Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. cut off sharp losses earlier to fall 0.7 percent to ₩2,557,000.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged lower by 0.1 percent to HK$31,501.97, while Shanghai composite declined by 0.6 percent to CN¥3,269.88. Shenzhen composite declined 0.6 percent to CN¥1,863.03, whereas the CSI 300 shrunk 0.9 percent to CN¥4,056.42.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 percent to A$5,949.40.
Concerns over Trade and US Politics
Trade-related matters remained a significant subject, after US President Donald Trump was reported to be planning of imposing $30 billion to $60 billion of tariffs on Chinese imports, reinforcing investor’s concerns that the White House is favoring protectionism.
Some investors feared that the proposed tariffs might lead to retaliatory actions from US trading partners, which could result to a trade war that will harm global economic growth.
White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro stated that Trump would get recommendations to deal with China’s theft and forced transfer of American intellectual property in the coming weeks, as part of an inquiry.
Regarding the tariffs, Navarro believed the US could require them on imports without triggering a trade war, saying that their allies should be able to understand that they are simply protecting themselves from what has been an unfair relationship for several years.
A source familiar with the matter stated that a phone call between US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to settle the tariff dispute failed to produce results, as they agreed to meet next week.
Political developments were the highlight of the week as well, after Trump has reportedly decided to dismiss US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster from the administration, which the White House denied afterward.
The report came after Trump announced on Tuesday that he has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president has a good working relationship with his national security advisor, and that there are no changes at National Security Council.
Asian shares were also pressured, after US Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena for documents from the Trump Organization, as part of his sweeping investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s company stated on Thursday that it was fully cooperating with the investigation since July 2017, turning over files and regularly talking about the scope of the demands in response to requests from federal investigators looking into the case.
Trump has said that any inquiry into his and his family’s finances would be crossing a red line of Mueller’s authority.
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