South Korean Won Down Amid U.S. Political Turmoil

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The South Korean won slipped for a third consecutive session to drop by more than a one-week low early on Friday as mounting uncertainty about Donald Trump’s presidency powered risk-aversion among investors in developing markets like South Korea.

The won was down at 1,126.9 against the US dollar as of 02:35 GMT, down 0.2 percent compared with Thursday’s close of 1,124.5. It had moved down as low as 1,131.1 as soon as the market opened.

A sharp acceleration in US factory activity gave the US dollar a lift on international exchanges, putting extra pressure on the won.

“It is true that the greenback itself strengthened in the global market, but the won seems to be losing more than expected due to strong risk-off mood in Asia region,” said Ha Keon-Hyeong, a Korean foreign exchange analyst.

He expected US dollar strength to continue in coming week, but saw won trading in a narrow range as end-month dollar-selling from local exporters will support the South Korean currency.

Meanwhile, Trump flatly denied he asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to end a probe into possible collusion between his campaign team and Russia, but talked over the possibility that he could be impeached has made some investors in emerging markets look for safer havens.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s sacking of Comey last week set off a political firestorm after the latter had written a memo stating that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into his former national security advisor’s Russian connections.

Moreover, South Korean shares also edged up, with the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) barely closing up 0.07 percent at 2,288.48 as of 6:03 PM GMT.

Foreign investors turned to net buyers right before the closing bell, purchasing 23.9 billion won worth of KOSPI shares for the day.

Offshore investors had purchased 63.2 billion Korean won (S$78.11 million) worth of Kospi shares near mid-session.

Hyundai Motor Co. publicly denied a media report that it is seeking to introduce a holding company structure, though investors still made expectations. The company shares rose over 3 percent at 170,000 won while market heavyweight Samsung Electronics dropped 2.6 percent at 2,236,000 won.

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Nikkei slips after weak U.S. data, financial stocks underperform

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Japanese stocks slipped on Wednesday morning after the dollar eased against the yen on weak U.S. economic data, while financials stocks underperformed hit by lower US yields. The Nikkei shares average dropped  0.5 percent to 19,814.88 as of 2:15 AM EDT. The dollar slipped as well 0.5 percent to one-week lows against its perceived safe-haven Japanese counterpart and currently standing at 112.49 yen. Meanwhile, U.S. housing starts plummeted 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million units, the lowest since November.

The market’s mood was further lessened by flagging confidence over the US president Donald Trump’s ability to push through tax reforms and stimulus programs that investors had been hopeful for since his election in November.

Recently, Trump asked his now-dismissed FBI Director James Comey to finish off the agency’s investigation into ties between former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, according to a source who had seen a memo written by Comey.

“We still can’t say clearly that this Trump’s case is a serious risk to the stock market yet. But people are watching if it leads to more serious problems such as a difficulty for him to push through his tax reforms and fiscal policy,” said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist in Japan.

Overnight, financial stocks such as insurers and banks – that earn profits from investing in higher-yielding products stumbled after U.S. Treasury yields dropped down as low as 2.31 percent.

Moreover, Dai-ichi Life Holdings fell 4.0 percent, Sompo Holdings dropped 1.8 per cent, while Mizuho Financial Group flagged 2.4 per cent.

Domestic-demand-sensitive stocks, such as utility and food shares, gained as investors stayed defensive. Tokyo Gas moved up 2.3 percent, and Ajinomoto and Japan Tobacco both went up 1.3 per cent.

The broader Topix shed 0.5 percent to 1,575.82 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.6 percent to 14,063.86.

While in commodities trading, Crude oil for June delivery was down 0.64% or 0.31 to $48.35 a barrel. Brent oil for delivery in July dipped as well 0.39% or 0.20 to hit $51.45 a barrel, while the June Gold Futures contract kept on increasing 0.50% or 6.20 to exchange at $1242.60 a troy ounce.

USD/JPY was down 0.56% to 112.49, while EUR/JPY rose 0.48% to 124.77.

The US Dollar Index Futures was down 0.13% at 98.06.

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