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Asia Tumbles as Trump Fears Persist

May 18, 2017 (Baystreet.ca via COMTEX) --

Asian stocks fell on Thursday and the U.S. Dollar was stuck near six-month lows against a basket of currencies as uncertainty mounted over U.S. President Donald Trump's future following reports that he tried to interfere with a federal investigation.

The Nikkei 225 went for a downward ride of 261.02 points, or 1.3%, to 19,553.86, weighed by a surge in the safe-haven yen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 157.11 points, or 0.6%, to 25,136.52

The yen didn't react much to Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the January-to-March period, which came in at 2.2% on-year annualized, topping a forecast for 1.7%.

The U.S. Dollar was fetching just 111.35 yen late afternoon Thursday, off a low of 110.51 yen, but down from levels over 113 yen earlier in the week.

In Japan, exporters were mostly lower, weighed by the yen's surge. A stronger yen tends to weaken exporters' overseas earnings when they are repatriated to their home currency.

Shares of Toyota lost 1.7%, Sony lost 2.3% and Honda was off 2.2%

In Hong Kong, shares of Tencent tacked on 1.5% to close at HK$236.60 a stock, with media outlets noting that profit of 14.3 billion yuan ($2.08 billion U.S.) for the first quarter, up 58% on-year, was above its poll forecast for 13.2 billion yuan. Earnings were reported after the market close on Wednesday.

Australia's market was weighed by continued declines in the heavily weighted banking sector. Westpac tumbled 3.1% after the stock went ex-dividend and ANZ lost 0.4%

The sector has been under pressure since the Australian budget, announced last week, included plans to impose a levy on the earnings of large banks.

Bucking the market drop, shares of Fairfax Media ended up 6.9% at A$1.24 after media reported it was considering a second surprise takeover bid.

U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman made a takeover bid of as much as A$2.87 billion ($2.13 billion U.S), valuing the company at A$1.225-A$1.25 a share.

That compared with an earlier rival bid of A$1.20 a share from TPG Capital Management and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board.

Equities in Asia took cues from Wall Street, where the Dow and S&P 500 both sank about 1.8% overnight following reports that Trump tried to influence a federal probe.

The allegations have not only thrown doubt over the future of the pro-growth policies that Trump promised, but they have raised the possibility he could end up leaving the presidency.

In other markets

Shanghai's CSI 300 lost 11.86 points, or 0.4%, to 3,221.66

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index fell 44.22 points, or 0.4%, to 9,969.45

In Korea, the Kospi index inched down 6.26 points, or 0.3%, to 2,286.82

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slipped 2.44 points, or 0.1%, to 3,221.66

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 declined 50.74 points, or 0.7%, to 7,371.76

In Australia, the ASX 200 dumped 47.72 points, or 0.8%, to 5,738.31

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