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Dec 15, 1:19 AM EST

Asian stocks mostly lower as US tax bill uncertainty weighs


AP Photo
AP Photo/Kin Cheung

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HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian share benchmarks were mostly lower Friday as uncertainty over U.S. tax reform legislation outweighed upbeat data from Japan.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.6 percent to 22,553.22 but South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.4 percent to 2,478.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.2 percent to 28,813.34 and the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.7 percent to 3,270.93. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 sank 0.2 percent to 5,997.00. Indexes in Taiwan and Southeast Asia declined.

JAPAN SURVEY: Corporate sentiment in Asia's second biggest economy is at an 11-year high, according to a quarterly survey. The Bank of Japan's "tankan" business outlook based on a poll of more than 10,000 companies posted its strongest reading since late 2006, in the latest sign that the economy is gaining momentum.

TAXING TIME: President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion U.S. tax overhaul was teetering on a knife-edge in the Senate, complicating Republican leaders' goal of pushing it through Congress next week and shaking investor confidence. Senator Marco Rubio vowed to vote against the bill, which gives generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, unless child tax credits are expanded. The bill's original version was approved by only 51-49, with Rubio's support.

MARKET INSIGHT: "A sustained slide into the end of the week may be the case as the tax reform jitters induced a risk-off mood for markets in the region this morning," said Jingyi Pan, strategist at IG Markets.

CENTRAL BANKING: Markets were digesting the impact of a raft of decisions by major global central banks over the previous day. The U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate for the third time this year as anticipated and indicated three more hikes are in store next year. Policymakers in China and Hong Kong followed suit with their own increases while the European Central Bank and the Bank of England kept their main rates on hold, as expected.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4 percent to close at 2,652.01. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.3 percent to 24,508.66. The Nasdaq shed 0.3 percent to 6,856.53.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.19 yen from 112.37 yen on Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1785 from $1.1776.

ENERGY: Oil futures advanced. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 9 cents to $57.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 44 cents to close at $57.04 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 2 cents to $63.33 per barrel in London.

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