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Asian Shares Drop as Political Uncertainty Deepens in US

By Investors Hub

Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Friday as trade-war worries persisted and reports suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed documents related to U.S. President Donald Trump’s businesses, adding to the continued sense of political uncertainty in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the White House denied reports that Trump has decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster from the administration.

Chinese and Hong Kong stocks fell on concerns over the increasingly protectionist policies of the Trump administration. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 20.72 points or 0.6 percent to 3,269.88, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged down 39.13 points or 0.1 percent to 31,501.97.

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Japanese shares also closed lower, hurt by a firmer yen as investors fretted about U.S. political uncertainty and official data showed Japan’s industrial production declined more than initially estimated in January.

A widening political scandal over the cut-price sale of government land to a supporter of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also overshadowed optimism over the Bank of Japan’s regular debt-buying operation.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 127.44 points or 0.6 percent to 21,676.51 but ended the week higher by 1 percent. The broader Topix Index closed 0.4 percent lower at 1,736.63.

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Exporter Canon dropped 0.9 percent and Sony lost 1.4 percent. Japan Petroleum fell 1.6 percent despite crude oil prices rising overnight. Electronics firm TDK Corp tumbled 3.3 percent and utility Kansai Electric Power declined 2.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Australian shares eked out modest gains after Wesfarmers unveiled plans to spin off its Coles supermarket division. Shares of the retail giant soared as much as 6.3 percent, while rival Woolworths advanced 1.3 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 28.50 points or 0.5 percent to 5,949.40, and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 27.30 points or 0.5 percent at 6,054.90.

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Strong base metal prices helped lift mining heavyweights, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both rising around 1 percent. South32 jumped 5.6 percent.

Premier Investments shares ended up over 6 percent. The company said its net profit for the first half rose 9.4 percent on record sales at its stationary brand Smiggle and sleepwear chain Peter Alexander.

On the other hand, banks Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac dropped around half a percent to extend recent losses amid a government backed inquiry into the sector.

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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