Asian Stocks Mixed, With Trade, U.S. Politics in Focus

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
A currency trader stands in front of screens showing Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), (L), and foreign exchange rate at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Asian stock markets were mixed 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.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent to 21,676.51, while South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1 percent higher to 2,493.97. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 0.4 percent to 31,408.15. China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6 percent to 3,272.02. But Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 5,949.40. Stocks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were mostly lower.

“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.

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 and Tuesday.

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.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 10 cents to $61.29 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, added 7 cents to $65.19 per barrel in London. It rose 23 cents to $65.12 per barrel on Thursday.

The dollar dipped to 105.97 Japanese yen from 106.33 yen. The euro rose to $1.2318 from $1.2305.