Asia shares muted as investors assess Fed pick, US tax plan

FILE - This Jan. 4, 2010, file photo shows an entrance to a Wall Street subway station in New York. U.S. stocks are mostly lower Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, as investors pore over House Republicans’ tax proposals as well as a disappointing round of company results. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

HONG KONG - Asian stocks were drifting Friday in holiday-thinned trading as investors digested news about the Fed's next chief and a U.S. tax cut plan.

KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.3 per cent to 28,605.50 while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China lost 0.2 per cent to 3,378.05. South Korea's Kospi slipped less than 0.1 per cent to 2,546.38 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5 per cent to 5,961.50. Japan's markets were closed for a holiday.

FED CHIEF: President Donald Trump chose Fed Governor Jerome "Jay" Powell to lead the Federal Reserve after current Chair Janet Yellen's term ends in February. Powell, a policymaker at the U.S. central bank since 2012, is expected to follow Yellen's cautious approach to raising interest rates. His selection wasn't a surprise for Wall Street, which had him as the front-runner.

TAX PLAN: Markets are assessing the $1.5 trillion tax cut plan unveiled by U.S. House Republicans. Under the plan, corporate rates will be cut, personal rates for most Americans will be lowered and some prized deductions will be reduced or eliminated. Attention was also turning to the latest U.S. payroll and unemployment data due out later in the day and its implications for the Fed's interest rate policy.

QUOTEWORTHY: "Currency and stock markets have adopted a largely 'wait and see response' both to news that Jerome Powell will be nominated as Fed Chair and to the release of US tax reform proposals," said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. "The announcements were largely as expected and the impact of both will depend on further developments."

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks had a mixed finish. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up less than 0.1 per cent to close at 2,579.85 and the Dow Jones industrial average added 0.3 per cent to a record 23,516.26. The Nasdaq composite crept less than 0.1 per cent lower to 6,714.94.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 113.99 yen from 114.08 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro edged higher to $1.1660 from $1.1659.

ENERGY: Oil futures extended gains. U.S. benchmark crude oil rose 26 cents to $54.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 24 cents to settle at $54.54 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, picked up 23 cents to $60.85 a barrel in London.


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