HONG KONG – Asian stock benchmarks skidded lower Thursday following Wall Street's worst day in months as Washington's political chaos made investors more nervous about risky assets and the outlook for President Donald Trump's business-friendly proposals.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index slid 1.7 percent to 19,479.84 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7 percent to 2,276.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.6 percent to 25,143.35 and the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China dipped 0.2 percent to 3,099.24. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 skidded 1.3 percent lower to 5,709.50. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asia also lost ground.
TRUMP'S TROUBLES: New developments in the political crisis facing Trump have rattled investors, ending a long period of calm in the markets. The turmoil stemmed from a published report that revealed Trump asked now-fired FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House denied it. The appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor was announced after U.S. trading closed. He will have broad powers to investigate allegations Russia and Trump's campaign collaborated to influence the election last year and to prosecute any crime he uncovers.
TRADER TALK: "The market is now trying to unwind expectations of 'Trumponomics', which includes $1 trillion of infrastructure plans, unprecedented tax reform and financial deregulation," said Margaret Yang, an analyst at CMC Markets. "Even if President Trump were to prise himself out of these crises, the market thinks that his ambitious reform plans will be discounted and considerably delayed."
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks suffered big losses. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its largest drop since September, sliding 1.8 percent to 2,357.03. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 1.8 percent to 20,606.93. The Nasdaq composite index gave up 2.6 percent to 6,011.24.
CURRENCIES: The dollar stabilized against its peers after being dragged down by Trump-related concerns. The euro slipped to $1.1153 from $1.1159 in late trading Wednesday. The dollar strengthened to 111.17 yen from 110.82 yen.
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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures slipped 15 cents to $48.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close at $49.07 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 19 cents to $52.02 a barrel in London.