HONG KONG — Asian markets struggled Thursday as investors put the brakes on a Trump rally that has inflated global stocks, while Japanese car giant Nissan fell after Carlos Ghosn, the man considered its savior, stepped down as CEO. New York’s Dow index racked up a ninth successive all-time high, its longest record streak in 30 years, but analysts said there was a sense that the advance may have gone too far. The dollar picked up slightly but was unable to fully bounce back from Wednesday’s sell-off after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest board meeting showed policymakers expect a rate hike “fairly soon” but also see increases being gradual. While they cited “heightened uncertainty” about possible U.S. policies that could lift inflation, hastening the need for rate hikes, that was not enough for dealers who had hoped for a firmer guidance.
Apart from taking a breather in January, world markets and the dollar have been on an upward trajectory since Donald Trump’s November U.S. election win betting his big-spending, tax-cutting plans will fire the US and global economy. But Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader, said in a note there appears to be some skepticism of the likely effectiveness of Trumponomics as well as worries from some hedge funds that any big news has been priced in. He added that there were an increasing number of investors betting on a retreat.
‘Subtle shift’ “When folks are starting to think and talk like this, it tells me that there could be a subtle shift in market thinking. This is because the Trump rally has now exceeded most U.S. equity market strategists’ guesstimates of where U.S. stocks would end 2017,” he said. In Tokyo the Nikkei index ended flat as the dollar dragged on exporters but having pared sharper morning losses. Hong Kong shed 0.4 percent, Shanghai closed 0.3 percent down and Sydney shed 0.4 percent, while Taipei and Bangkok also retreated.
However, Seoul rebounded from morning selling to end slightly higher while Singapore was up 0.2 percent. News that Nissan chief executive Ghosn would resign his post weighed on the carmaker, sending it down 0.6 percent in Tokyo. The man credited with reinventing the once nearly bankrupt Japanese firm said he would focus on overhauling rival Mitsubishi Motors, but will stay on as chairman, while co-CEO Hiroto Saikawa will take over.
Nissan, Japan’s number two automaker, threw Mitsubishi a lifeline in May when it bought a one-third stake in for about US$2.2 billion, as it wrestled with a mileage-cheating scandal that hammered sales. Mitsubishi ended up 0.4 percent. In early European trade London fell 0.2 percent, Frankfurt was flat and Paris added 0.3 percent.
Key Figures Around 0800 GMT Tokyo – Nikkei 225: FLAT at 19,371.46 (close) Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 24,114.86 (close) Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,251.38 (close) London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,289.98 Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.0552 from US$1.0572 Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.2435 from US$1.2463 Dollar/yen: UP at 113.18 yen from 113.08 yen Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 48 cents at US$54.07 Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 49 cents at US$56.33 per barrel New York – Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 20,775.60 (close)