Trump crisis drags Nikkei Asia300 Index lower
HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan fell Thursday as uncertainties about the future of U.S. President Donald Trump's economic agenda dented risk appetite.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index fell 0.4%, or five points, to 1,216.27. Malaysia's DRB-Hicom led the losses with a 6.6% slide after Wednesday's 12% spike amid hopes of a stake sale in unprofitable unit Proton. China Unicom (Hong Kong) shed 3.2% after its parent China United Network Communications uncovered "widespread falsification of new business to inflate revenue" in the Shaanxi province, Caixin reported, citing multiple company sources. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics shed 0.9%.
Losses in Asia come a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 Index slid 1.8% each for their worst single-session loss since September last year. Concerns about Trump's ability to see his economic plans through grew following reports he interfered in a federal investigation into his former national security advisor Michael Flynn. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has reportedly invited former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to testify on the Flynn investigation and the Justice Department appointed former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to probe alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
"It appears the market has come alive with the dynamic of volatility, which will no doubt be welcomed by many of the shorter-term traders out there," Chris Weston, chief market strategist, at IG said. "What we have seen has been a solid session of risk aversion, but is it the start of a trend lower in risk assets and a period of more elevated implied volatility, where we see the US volatility index ("VIX") holding a 15 handle and perhaps moving into 20?"
The CBOE Volatility Index, also called the "fear gauge" spiked 46% in its largest daily jump in a year on Wednesday after falling to a 23-year low just last week.
The Nikkei Asia300 China Index lost 0.2%, while Hong Kong's gauge slipped 0.1%.
Heavyweight Tencent Holdings rose 1.6% to a record after reporting better-than-expected March quarter results.
The country gauges for South Korea and Taiwan shed 0.5% each.
The Philippines' gauge fell 1.1% after disappointing growth numbers. First-quarter gross domestic product rose 6.4% against 6.6% in the previous quarter. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting a growth of 6.8%.
Singapore's gauge ended little changed. Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. dropped 0.4% and DBS Group Holdings lost 0.8% as safe-haven demand boosted U.S. bonds, sending the 10-year bond yield to a one-month low.
Singapore Telecommunications rose 0.3% after reporting a 1.8% increase in fourth-quarter net profit.
In the rest of Southeast Asia, Malaysia's index fell 0.6%, while country gauges for Vietnam and Thailand slipped 0.2% each. Indonesia's index added 0.7%. Shortly after markets closed, the nation's monetary authority Bank Indonesia stood pat on interest rates.
India's 44-stock gauge slid 1.1% in line with the broad regional losses. The nation's benchmark BSE Sensex also ended lower on Thursday after rising to record-highs for three days straight.
-- Nimesh Vora and V.Phani Kumar
--Nikkei Markets is a real-time financial news service for South East Asia's markets published by Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte Ltd, a Nikkei and NewsRise joint venture company. Nikkei Markets provides wide companies coverage in the region, including the Nikkei's Asia300 companies.