Asian shares slip as market mulls Kudlow, trade tensions

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Asian shares slip as market mulls Kudlow, trade tensions
People walk past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Thursday, March 15, 2018. Asian shares were mixed Thursday as investors assessed President Donald Trump's pick for his new economic adviser amid lingering worries over a possible global trade war. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower Thursday as investors assessed President Donald Trump’s pick for his new economic adviser amid lingering worries over a possible global trade war.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged less than 0.1 percent lower to 21,771.75 while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,493.04. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2 percent to 31,372.11 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China fell 0.5 percent to 3,276.52. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.2 percent to 5,920.80. Shares were mixed in Southeast Asia.

TRADE FEARS: Trump named CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow as his top economic aide, replacing Gary Cohn, who quit in opposition to the president’s plans for new trade tariffs. Kudlow said he is “in accord” with Trump’s agenda, which includes reducing the trade imbalance with China — marking a reversal from his previous pro-free trade stance. He told the network after the announcement that “China has not played by the rules for a long time” and the country “needs a comeuppance on trade.” He said his team at the White House would help implement policies set by the president, including stiff new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Separately, European Union head Donald Tusk urged Trump to cooperate with the continent instead of slapping tariffs on European goods.

QUOTEWORTHY: Kudlow’s appointment “interestingly had not been significantly well-received by the market,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore. “One reason underpinning this lingering fear may be the new chief economic advisor’s stance on China which adds to the tension with Kudlow having targeted the country in his first public remark.”

WALL STREET: Major U.S benchmarks ended lower. The S&P 500 index lost 0.6 percent to finish at 2,749.48. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 1 percent to 24,758.12. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent to 7,496.81.

ENERGY: Oil futures held fairly steady. Benchmark U.S. crude inched up 1 cent to .97 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 25 cents to .96 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 3 cents to .86 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 105.96 yen from 106.31 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro strengthened to .2373 from .2369.