Friday 05.00 GMT
Asian stocks looked set to end a solid week on a down note, taking their cue from a subdued session on Wall Street as investors looked past some optimistic comments on US tax cuts and failed to catch a boost from higher oil prices.
Steve Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, said the White House wanted to pass “very significant” tax reform within the next six months, and argued that these cuts, combined with a curb on regulations, could boost US gross domestic product growth to at least 3 per cent, possibly as early as 2017.
Some analysts see the predicted timeline and success of the tax cuts as being too optimistic, given divisions among Republicans in Congress and that full-year US economic growth has not topped 3 per cent since 2005.
The S&P 500 closed flat on Thursday, although the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to a record high.
Japan’s Topix was down 0.4 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.4 per cent and China’s Shanghai Composite dropped one-quarter of 1 per cent.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 0.8 per cent lower, weighed down by materials stocks.
The US dollar index slipped 0.1 per cent on Friday at 100.97, and was facing its first three-day losing streak in six weeks. Nonetheless, Japan’s yen was 0.2 per cent weaker at ¥112.79 per dollar, and the worst-performing Asian currency as it gave up some of its 1 per cent gain over Wednesday and Thursday.
The Australian dollar was flat at $0.7715.
Oil prices reversed early declines in Asia, having rallied 1.3 per cent Thursday as a report from the American Petroleum Institute showed an unexpected drop in crude inventories last week. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up per cent on Friday at $56.64 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate was flat at $54.47.
Gold was flat at $1,250.05 an ounce after jumping 1 per cent on Thursday to its highest since mid-November. Meanwhile, a surge in the price of bitcoin about $1,200 for the first time put it within striking distance of crossing the gold price.
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