Asian Stocks Firm as Markets Mull President Trump’s Tax Plan

HONG KONG (AP) -
A man walks past an electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Thursday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday as investors assessed the scant details of President Donald Trump’s U.S. tax overhaul. Japan’s central bank kept its monetary policy unchanged and forecasted steady growth for Asia’s No. 2 economy.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.2 percent to 19,251.87 while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 2,210.65. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.4 percent to 24,666.29 and the Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.2 percent to 3,147.82. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.2 percent to 5,921.50. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were mixed.

The White House unveiled the broad outlines of President Trump’s tax plan while leaving out many of the details. Officials said they hoped to slash corporate taxes to 15 percent from 35 percent, but specifics are still to be negotiated. Stocks have been lifted by investor anticipation of big tax cuts as well as President Trump’s vow to cut red tape for businesses. But based on the few specifics spelled out so far, most experts suggested the plan would add little to growth while swelling the budget deficit and potentially handing large windfalls to wealthier taxpayers.

“As expected, the Trump administration rolled out the tax reform roadshow on Wednesday,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. “Given the market’s lofty expectations, traders are viewing it as little more than a road map, rather than the much ballyhooed ‘big announcement,’ because the statement did not provide any comprehensive details.”

The central bank forecast growth in the world’s third-largest economy would remain steady over the next year as it keeps its ultra-lax monetary policy unchanged. The Bank of Japan said preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would support growth by spurring demand but warned of risks from geopolitical trends.

A recovery in exports helped the South Korean economy expand at the fastest pace in a year, the country’s central bank said. Asia’s No. 4 economy beat forecasts by growing 2.7 percent in the first quarter, defying a backlash from Chinese consumers over deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped less than 0.1 percent to 2,387.45 after briefly climbing above its record closing level earlier in the day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 20,975.09 and the Nasdaq composite slipped less than 0.1 percent to 6,025.23.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 23 cents to $49.39 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 6 cents to settle at $49.62 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 22 cents to $52.19.

The euro slipped to $1.0898 from $1.0905 while the dollar rose to 111.26 yen from 111.07 yen late Wednesday.