World Economy

Asian Markets Close Mixed

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index and Kospi edged up.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index and Kospi edged up.

Equities in Asia closed mixed on Wednesday as investors digest the dramatic dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in the US and follow the inauguration of liberal candidate Moon Jae-in after his win in the South Korean presidential election.

Official results reflected that Moon, a candidate from the Democratic Party of Korea, had won 41.1% of the vote, according to Reuters. Moon will take on the presidency after the ouster of former president Park Geun-hye, CNBC reported.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 0.29% or 57.09 points higher at 19,900.09 while the Kospi fell 0.99% to close at 2,270.12 following Moon’s election victory.

The ASX 200 reversed earlier losses to gain 0.61% or 35.497 points to close at 5,875.4 as investors digested the release of the federal budget yesterday after the market close.

Markets in greater China were mixed, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index up 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite was closed 0.93% or 28.7761 points down at 3,051.7508, while the Shenzhen Composite was dropped 1.358% to close at 1,822.557.

Markets in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia were closed for the Vesak Day public holiday.

In currency news, the dollar weakened against a basket of rivals after three consecutive sessions of gains to trade at 99.421. The move lower came after Trump’s surprise dismissal of FBI Director Comey. The dollar also softened against the yen, trading at 113.85 at 2:20 pm. Dollar/yen breached the 114 level earlier in the session.

The Aussie dollar strengthened slightly against the dollar to trade at $0.735, but still off levels around $0.74 seen last week.

“With iron ore, (Australia’s) chief export, having shed an astonishing 47.3% over 36 sessions then the Australian dollar has done well to remain above $0.73 until now,” ThinkMarkets Senior Market Analyst Matt Simpson said in a note.

With the Federal Reserve likely to raise interest rates in June, the Aussie could break below $0.70 if traders realize a third rate hike is on the cards, Simpson told CNBC.

The Australian government forecast an A$7.4 billion ($5.4 billion) surplus for fiscal year 2020/21 and announced it would be raising taxes on banks in its bid to “re-set” the Australian budget.

Shares of major Australian banks closed mixed after falling more than 1% in early trade following the news of the bank levy. Westpac was down 0.7% at A$32.65 a stock, Commonwealth Bank was 0.35% lower at A$81.73 and National Australia Bank fell 0.68% to trade at A$32.20.

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