ASIA MARKETS: Australia, Japan Lead Asian Market Decliners

By Ese Erheriene Features Dow Jones Newswires

However, stocks in China, Hong Kong gain in early trading

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Stocks started the week modestly lower in Asia, following some sizable declines worldwide at the end of last week.

Friday's removal of chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, while not a surprise to markets, turned the spotlight back on concerns about the Trump administration's ability to advance its agenda.

"It does highlight the political turmoil that President Donald Trump is facing," said Jingyi Pan, a market analyst at IG Group. "For the markets...it leaves a lingering concern about U.S. policy."

Still, some say the three-day Jackson Hole gathering hosted by the Federal Reserve, starting Thursday, bring investor focus back to fundamentals.

Australia led the declines early Monday, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.5% amid drops for the country's big four banks, which make up more than a quarter of the index's weighting. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AU) was recently down 1.3%.

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The Nikkei in Japan was off 0.4%, with financial and export-dependant stocks like Nomura Holdings (8604.TO) and Sony (6758.TO) falling more than 1%.

Weakness in both markets came despite strength in energy stocks after oil prices rebounded 3% Friday. Australia's Santos (SSLTY) and Japan's Inpex (1605.TO) each added about 1%. Crude futures were flat early Monday in Asia.

Chinese stocks, which outperformed Friday as the Shanghai Composite bucked regional declines, were up Monday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was 0.5% higher after opening.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 20, 2017 23:32 ET (03:32 GMT)