Asian stocks lower as North Korea jitters flare
Asian stocks declined Friday amid renewed jitters over North Korea and conflicting signals from President Donald Trump about U.S. trade policy.
KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 percent to 19,183.99 and the Shanghai Composite Index retreated 02 percent to 3,145.15. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.4 percent to 24,605.99 and Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,205.74. India’s Sensex gave up 0.4 percent to 29,910.83 while Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was unchanged at 5,921.00. New Zealand and Singapore rose while other Southeast Asian benchmarks declined.
WALL STREET: U.S. stock indexes fluttered up and down, then ended the day a hair above where they started. Gains by Under Armour, Comcast and other companies reporting stronger-than-expected profits helped to offset a slump in energy stocks. A growing list of companies say they earned more in the first three months of 2017 than Wall Street had forecast. Analysts expect this to be the strongest quarter of growth in years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,388.77 and the Dow Jones industrial average added less than 0.1 percent to 20,981.33. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent, to a record 6,048.94.
NORTH KOREA: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China has threatened to impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests. The Trump administration has declared that all options are on the table to block North Korea from carrying out threats against the United States and its allies in the region. The administration is trying to pressure Pyongyang with assistance from China, its main trading partner and aid donor. Tillerson said on the Fox News Channel that China told the U.S. that it had informed North Korea “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own.” The Trump administration said it wants to exert economic and diplomatic pressure to push North Korea to change course from developing nuclear weapons.
TRUMP AND TRADE: The Trump administration rattled companies and investors this week by leaking a possible plan to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Hours later, Trump backtracked and said he would try to overhaul the deal and would only pull out if he couldn’t secure favorable terms. Earlier this month, Trump reversed course on China and dropped a campaign promise to declare Beijing a currency manipulator. Nor has he followed up on vows to punish American companies that move jobs overseas or on threats to tax Chinese and Mexican imports.