Asian Shares Mostly Lower on Uncertainty Over Trade Outlook

A man uses a mobile phone in front of an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Shares fell in most markets in Asia on Thursday, after President-elect Donald Trump named an economist who is harshly critical of China to head a newly created White House council on trade. Trading volume was low, however, as investors wound down ahead of the end of the civil year.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent lower to 19,427.67 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent to 21,650.61. The Kospi in South Korea fell 0.1 percent to 2,035.63. But Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 5,643.90 and the Shanghai Composite index ticked up 0.1 percent to 3,138.69. Shares in Taiwan and Southeast Asia fell.

After a mixed open, stocks finished at their lowest prices of the day. Health care companies continued to lag the market, as they’ve done throughout 2016. Industrial companies, which have surged since the presidential election, also eased lower. The Dow dipped 32.66 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,941.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 5.58 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,265.18. The Nasdaq composite fell 12.51 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,471.43.

President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to name Peter Navarro, author of “Death by China,” to head a national trade council in his new administration raised concerns in Asia, Mizuho Bank analysts said in a commentary. “The NTC’s mission is to oversee industrial policy, and Trump has stated that its focus will be on boosting manufacturing, and leading a ‘Buy America, Hire America’ program. We expect this could set in motion more inward-looking U.S. trade policies, with significant risks for trade-dependent economies in the Asia-Pacific region,” it said.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 7 cents to $52.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 81 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $52.49 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, also fell 7 cents to $54.39 a barrel in London.

The dollar rose to 117.66 yen from 117.54 yen. The euro rose to $1.0438 from $1.0427.