Asian stocks decline, with trade, US politics in focus

By YOUKYUNG LEEMarketsAssociated Press

Asian stock markets fell Friday as investors remained cautious about U.S. plans to raise tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Uncertainty over White House politics also cast a shadow.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent to 21,662.99 and South Korea's Kospi slid 0.3 percent to 2,483.52. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dipped 0.3 percent to 31,442.49. China's Shanghai Composite Index inched down 0.1 percent to 3,287.37. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 5,951.60. Stocks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were mostly lower.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Caution lingers amid risk factors from heightened trade tensions between U.S. and China, U.S. politics and geopolitical tensions in Europe," Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary.

U.S. POLITICS: The Trump Organization said the company has fully cooperated with Robert Mueller's investigation in response to the report that it received a subpoena from Mueller that included a request for documents related to Russia.

U.S. TRADE: Trade remained in the spotlight after President Trump said CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow is replacing Gary Cohn as his top economic adviser after Cohn disagreed with Trump's decision to hike tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trade issues will likely top the agenda at a financial meeting of the Group of 20 industrial nations in Buenos Aires on Monday to Tuesday.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished mostly lower Thursday. The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 2,747.33. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.5 percent to 24,873.66. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 percent to 7,481.74. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 0.5 percent to 1,576.62.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 2 cents to $61.17 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 23 cents to $61.19 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 5 cents to $65.07 per barrel in London. It rose 23 cents to $65.12 per barrel on Thursday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 105.89 Japanese yen from 106.33 yen. The euro rose to $1.2309 from $1.2305.