Asia markets up after Trump tax plan, China trade data eyed

Tokyo (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump's long-awaited tax cut plans buoyed some Asia-Pacific exchanges Friday with Chinese trade data in focus, but a rise in the yen dragged Japan's benchmark index into the red.

European and US equities scored gains -- with the S&P 500 edging to a fresh record -- as details of Trump's plans were unveiled, including a proposal to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

Trump's promise to reduce taxes, ramp up infrastructure spending and slash red tape helped drive a global market rally in the months after his November election win.

But those gains fizzled as his legislative agenda suffered a series of blows and the White House has become embroiled in a host of crises.

Analysts took comfort from the fact that Trump has worked more closely with Republican congressional leaders on the tax issue than on the failed health care reform they attempted.

Still, the tax bill is expected to face a tough passage through Congress, with both sides of the aisle likely to question its affordability.

Investors were also keeping a close eye on Chinese manufacturing data due Friday before a week-long national holiday.

Mainland Chinese markets rose with Shanghai up 0.4 percent, while South Korea's benchmark index gained 0.6 percent and Hong Kong added 0.2 percent.

Taiwan's main index fell 0.1 percent and Singapore dropped 0.8 percent.

- 'Abenomics' under threat? -

In Japan, where the benchmark Nikkei 225 ended the morning session 0.3 percent lower, investors were largely unmoved by broadly upbeat data, including better-than-expected factory output, as a stronger yen dented sentiment.

While the dollar was higher at 112.63 yen from 112.29 yen in New York, it was still down from 112.99 yen where Tokyo investors left off on Thursday.

A pick-up in Japan's currency hits the profit outlook for major exporters, including automakers like Toyota and Nissan, which hurts demand for their shares.

Meanwhile, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is facing an unexpected and formidable challenge in snap elections called for later this month from popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who stole Abe's limelight with her newly launched "Party of Hope."

"The weakness in the yen that supported Japanese stocks has slowed," Hideyuki Ishiguro, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

"The reorganisation of opposition parties is threatening the optimism that the ruling coalition will gain an absolute stable majority in the election.

"There's a possibility that the monetary easing under Abenomics will be shaken, which could deter investors from buying," he added, referring to Abe's flagship growth plan.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 20,305.04 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 27,465.16

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,350.38

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1781 from $1.1784

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.63 yen from 112.29 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3415 from $1.3439

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP one cent at $51.57 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 12 cents at $57.63 per barrel

New York - DOW: UP 0.2 percent at 22,381.20 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,322.82 points (close)