Asian stocks sank Friday as global investor sentiment was battered by big losses on Wall Street amid U.S. political turmoil and a deadly van attack in Spain.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.2 percent to 19,468.05 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.2 percent to 2,358.14. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 0.6 percent to 27,184.18, coming off lows earlier in the session, while the Shanghai Composite index reversed losses, edging up 0.1 percent to 3,271.36. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,742.80. Taiwan’s benchmark also fell and Southeast Asia indexes were mostly lower.
Investors shied away from riskier investments following the latest attack to hit Europe. Police in Spain’s Catalonia region said they killed five suspects after a van swerved into pedestrians in downtown Barcelona, killing 13 and injuring 100. Police called it a terror attack and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for it.
U.S. stocks had their second-worst day this year as some big companies provided disappointing forecasts in their latest quarterly earnings reports, darkening the outlook for the world’s No. 1 economy. Network equipment maker Cisco Systems and data storage company NetApp both offered poor sales forecasts for the current quarter and Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands cut its annual profit forecast on weakening sales.
More turmoil at the White House added to investor pessimism. President Donald Trump abandoned his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council, a day after the administration said would close down two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders. The White House was also forced to issue a statement dispelling swirling rumors that Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, was stepping down, saying they were “100-percent false.”
“The White House drama shows little sign of easing,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia trading at OANDA. “With U.S. investors’ nerves fraying at the thought of a discombobulated White House — the face of the nation — investor risk appetite could remain fractured for some time.”
U.S. benchmarks had their biggest loss since May. Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 1.5 percent to 2,430.01, its lowest close since July 11. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 1.2 percent to 21,750.73. The Nasdaq composite sank 1.9 percent to 6,221.91.
Benchmark U.S. crude dipped 3 cents to $47.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to settle at $47.09 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was flat at $51.03 a barrel in London.