Asia report: Markets lower despite Japan GDP growth
(ShareCast News) - Markets in Asia finished lower on Thursday, once again taking their cues from Wall Street overnight as political tension around Trump's leak of classified information to Russian officials and the investigation into links between his presidential campaign and Russia.
Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 1.32% at 19,553.86, with the yen rising higher as investors rushed to the safe haven currency.
It was last 0.22% stronger at JPY 110.59 per $1.
Fresh data released during the session showed the country's gross domestic product grew 2.2% in the January-to-March period, ahead of a Reuters-polled forecast for 1.7% growth.
"In a day when global markets have been dominated by political tensions in Washington, these GDP data are likely to have only a minor effect on Japanese markets, and are subject to extensive revisions in any case," noted ING Financial managing director Tim Condon.
The major exporters were pushed lower by the strong yen, with Honda down 2.23%, Sony off 2.26% and Toyota 1.72% softer.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite lost 0.45% to settle at 3,090.40, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite was down 0.63% at 1,855.99.
South Korea's Kospi was 0.27% softer at 2,286.82, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong fell 0.62% to 25,136.52.
On the US political front, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to take over the investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, by the Department of Justice.
The investigation was being headed by former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump last week, before Trump admitted in an interview that Comey's investigation into Russia was 'on his mind' at the time of the termination.
Oil prices were weaker, with Brent crude last down 1.71% at $51.33 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate off 1.68% at $48.26.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.82% lower at 5,738.31, led lower by its weighty financials subindex.
Of the major banks, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped 0.38%, and Westpac Banking Corporation slipped 3.11% as its stock went ex-dividend.
Ailing newspaper publisher Fairfax Media went against the grain and surged 6.9%, amid reports another US private equity firm wanted a piece of the media action.
Hellman & Friedman reportedly made a takeover bid of up to AUD 2.87bn for the trans-Tasman media empire, valuing the firm at between AUD 1.225 and AUD 1.25 per share - higher than the AUD 1.20 per share offered by TPG Capital Management.
In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 lost 0.7% to settle at 7,371.76, led lower by Wellington-listed shares in Westpac, which lost 4.1%.
The down under dollars were mixed, with the Aussie last 0.13% stronger against the greenback at AUD 1.3439, while the Kiwi weakened 0.09% to NZD 1.4420 per $1.