Asia opens mixed, with ASX 200 down 0.4%, Nikkei down 0.5% and Kospi up 0.6% – CNBC

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Asian markets were mixed in early trade on Friday, after U.S. stocks whipsawed overnight on the back of a report that the special counsel investigation into Trump and his campaign was intensifying.

Australia’s ASX 200 dropped 0.43 percent, with the heavily-weighted financial subindex declining 0.66 percent. Among the major banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank shares were down 2.88 percent. Reports said Thursday evening that the Australian government’s financial intelligence agency alleged the bank breached money laundering laws.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre alleged that the bank allowed thousands of large cash deposits to wash through its ATMs, including instances when the bank believed the customers were possibly financing terrorism but did not immediately report them to the authorities.

Among other major banking stocks, ANZ fell 0.57 percent, Westpac was off by 0.85 percent and the National Australia Bank declined 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.45 percent, while the Topix index declined 0.41 percent. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was up 0.55 percent.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia, has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, which, the newspaper reported, means the probe is intensifying and could stretch “for months.”

Analysts said that while the news was not particularly a “great surprise,” its emergence saw both the dollar and Treasury yields fall back a touch ahead of the U.S. market close.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, traded at 92.712 at 8:14 a.m. HK/SIN — declining from levels above 93.200 earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen strengthened against the dollar to trade at 109.88 compared to levels below 111.0 reached in the previous week.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7960. The Aussie will be watched closely ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s statement on monetary policy and the June retail sales number due Friday.

Statements on monetary policy are issued four times a year and sets out the RBA’s assessment of current economic conditions at home and abroad, along with the outlook for Australian inflation and output growth.

Earlier this week, the RBA kept its cash rate unchanged at 1.50 percent, and Governor Philip Lowe said the central bank’s forecasts for the Australian economy are “largely unchanged.”

“Nevertheless markets are on guard for an upwards revision to their near term inflation forecasts (driven by utility prices rises) but possible small downgrade to medium term inflation forecasts (on soft wages growth and/or exchange rate gains since May),” Ray Attrill, head of foreign-exchange strategy at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

The British pound traded at $1.3140 on Friday morning after the Bank of England held interest rates steady at 0.25 percent on Thursday, in line with expectations.


Asia opens mixed, with ASX 200 down 0.4%, Nikkei down 0.5% and Kospi up 0.6% – CNBC}