Moneycontrol
May 19, 2017 07:26 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Asia stocks mixed, dollar steady on data, but Trump's troubles weigh

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.2 percent, on track for a weekly loss of 0.5 percent.

Asian stocks were mixed early on Friday and the dollar held onto overnight gains made on strong economic data, but investors were cautious due to uncertainties surrounding President Donald Trump after reports he tried to influence a federal investigation.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.2 percent, on track for a weekly loss of 0.5 percent.

Japan's Nikkei was almost 0.1 percent higher, headed for a decline of 1.6 percent for the week.

MSCI's emerging markets index extended losses by 0.2 percent on Friday. It posted its lowest close in two weeks on Thursday, dragged down by an 8.8 percent slump in Brazilian stocks , on a report that President Michel Temer supported an attempt to pay a potential witness to remain silent in the country's biggest-ever graft probe.

The Brazilian real was fractionally firmer at 3.3685 per dollar early on Friday, after an 8.5 percent plunge to its lowest level since December on Thursday.

Wall Street bounced back overnight from its worst sell-off in more than eight months, taking solace in the appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller to investigate alleged Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow.

The Dow gained 0.3 percent, while Nasdaq was up 0.7 percent.

"We could be just shaking off the jitters here. Yesterday, investors were really worried," said Janna Sampson, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

"Whatever the (investigation) result, people feel they might have confidence it's an accurate, unbiased result," she said.

Investors will watch with renewed focus next week's testimony to the Senate by former FBI Director James Comey. Comey's firing by Trump last week set off the political firestorm and culminated on Wednesday in the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel to probe possible ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Strong economic indicators from the US also gave support to markets and helped lift the dollar 0.6 percent overnight, but it showed little change on Friday morning, trading around 111.42 yen and was set for a 1.7 percent slide over the week.

Data showed a sharp acceleration in factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region in May, and an unexpected drop in new applications for unemployment benefits.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was also steady at 97.83, after gaining 0.3 percent on Thursday. It's set to end the week 1.4 percent lower.

Sterling inched up 0.1 percent to $1.2952.

On Thursday, it broke through USD 1.30 for the first time in almost eight months after data showed better-than-expected British retail sales growth that helped ease concerns about the broader economy. But it fell back down on technical selling to close 0.2 percent lower.

The euro was little changed on Friday. It touched a nine-month high on Thursday but surrendered the gains as the dollar advanced.

In commodities, oil prices continued their gains for the third straight session on optimism that producers will agree to rein in output for longer in order to soak up a global glut.

US crude rose 0.2 percent to USD 49.46 a barrel, and was poised to end the week 3.4 percent higher.

Gold inched higher, clawing back some of Thursday's losses. Spot gold  added 0.2 percent to USD 1,248.76, set to post a weekly gain of 1.7 percent.
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