TOKYO – Shares were meandering in sluggish trading in Asia on Thursday as investors awaited the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. Japan's benchmark rose after the dollar slipped against the yen.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 1.0 percent to 19,075.98 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 added 0.1 percent to 5,685.60. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.6 percent to 22,961.99 and South Korea's Kospi was flat at 2,072.61. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1 percent lower to 3,111.20. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
WALL STREET: After a torrid post-election rally, markets are listless ahead of Friday's inauguration. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday, and investors are waiting to see how much of his campaign-trail rhetoric will become government policy. The Standard & Poor's 500 has moved by less than 0.4 percent, up or down, for nine straight days. It gained 4 points, or 0.2 percent, on Wednesday to 2,271.89. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 22.05 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,804.72. The Nasdaq composite index added 16.93, or 0.3 percent, to 5,555.65.
TRUMP WATCH: Uncertainties over future U.S. trade policy deepened after Trump's nominee for Commerce secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, slammed China as the "most protectionist" country. "And it's one thing to talk about free trade. We would like to have our trading partners also practice free trade and do it in a more balanced manner than has been done at present," Ross told a Senate hearing on his confirmation.
THE QUOTE: "Equity markets have been trading flat ahead of the U.S. presidential inauguration, while the U.S. Treasuries sold off, but certainly, there's a sense that the post-election honeymoon is over," Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA, said in a research note. "While the inauguration is dominating headlines, simmering on the back burner is the overriding theme of US protectionism, expressly directed at China," he said.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose against many of its rivals after sinking sharply against the British pound and other currencies earlier in the week. The dollar rose to 114.50 yen while the British pound fell to $1.2278 from $1.2396. The euro fell to $1.0640 from $1.0709.
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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil gained 40 cents to $51.48 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.40 to settle at $51.08 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 44 cents to $54.36 a barrel.
AP Business writers Stan Choe and Marley Jay contributed to this report.