HONG KONG — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday as investors remained cautious amid U.S. political uncertainty. Weak U.S. retail data added to worry over consumer spending.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.7 percent to 19,823.28 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.4 percent to 2,288.39. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent higher to 25,141.13 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China was 0.4 percent higher at 3,072.01. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.7 percent to 5,836.90.
TRUMP’S TROUBLES: The continuing fallout over President Donald Trump’s unprecedented firing of FBI Director James Comey is making investors wary of taking on more risk and raises questions about whether he can follow through on his business-friendly agenda, analysts said.
QUOTEWORTHY: “The political noise continues to escalate over Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. “This storyline has clearly rattled equity investors, given this political cloud could cripple the fragile support for Trump’s tax policy.”
RETAIL ROUT: Big U.S. department stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s said in their quarterly earnings reports that sales fell according to a key gauge, signaling changing tastes and buyers shifting online. The latest numbers underscore worries about consumer spending in the world’s No. 1 economy, with retail accounting for a big part of it.
DATA DUMP: Investors are awaiting reports that could provide fresh insight into the health of the global economy. The figures due out include U.S. inflation and retail sales numbers, a report on German quarterly economic growth, and Chinese money supply and credit data.
GROUP OF SEVEN: Finance ministers from seven of the world’s advanced economies are set to gather in Italy this week. The officials from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States are expected to discuss how to promote global economic growth and prevent big companies from avoiding tax.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks finished modestly lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 2,394.44. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 20,919.42. The Nasdaq composite declined 0.2 percent to 6,115.96.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures extended gains, rising 7 cents to $47.90 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to settle at $47.83 per barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 6 cents to $50.83 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 113.70 yen from 113.86 yen in late Thursday trading. The euro strengthened to $1.0874 from $1.0862.