ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Drop Slightly As Dust Settles After U.S. Tax Bill

By Gregor Stuart Hunter Features Dow Jones Newswires

Samsung drags down Kospi, Nikkei slips as BOJ keeps rates steady

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Stock benchmarks in Japan, Australia and Taiwan ended slightly lower after the muted session in the U.S., as equity investors digested the passage of tax-code changes in the U.S.

Treasury yields pulled back in Asian trading hours Thursday after hitting fresh nine-month highs in the U.S., with the 10-year yield nearing the psychologically important 2.5% mark. It was recently at 2.498%.

Higher yields often send Japan financial stocks -- notably insurers -- up. But they weren't getting much help Thursday, and the Nikkei Stock Average closed down 0.1%.

The market also wasn't benefiting from a weaker yen. The dollar was recently at Yen113.43, versus Yen113 at the end of Tokyo stock trading Wednesday. The currency barely budged (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/euro-holds-steady-ahead-of-spains-catalan-elections-dollar-awaits-data-deluge-2017-12-21)after the Bank of Japan's policy statement, which maintained its main policy stances.

Read: Bank of Japan keeps rates steady, gives no hint of future changes (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bank-of-japan-keeps-rates-steady-gives-no-hint-of-future-changes-2017-12-20)

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South Korea's stock benchmark closed down 1.7% on fresh weakness in Samsung Electronics (005930.SE), which ended 3.4% down. It was downgraded by Morgan Stanley last month after hefty gains this year, and its shares have moved at least 1% in 11 of the past 19 sessions.

Among the gainers, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.5%, led by a rise in materials and energy stocks. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4%.

U.S. tax changes should boost growth and indirectly contribute to greater demand for goods and services produced in Asia, said Jonathan Garrick, who manages the $63 million Neutron Asia Absolute Return Fund.

"It's a huge positive for American business and the American economy--whether it puts them in trouble with the deficit is another question--but a strongly growing U.S. economy is for the benefit of the world," he added.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 21, 2017 05:44 ET (10:44 GMT)