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Asia: Markets up after Trump tax plan, China trade data eyed

[TOKYO] US President Donald Trump's long-awaited tax cut plans buoyed some Asia-Pacific exchanges on 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 Mr Trump's plans were unveiled, including a proposal to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 20 per cent.

Mr 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 Mr Trump has worked more closely with Republican congressional leaders on the tax issue than on the failed health care reform they attempted.

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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 per cent, while South Korea's benchmark index gained 0.6 per cent and Hong Kong added 0.2 per cent.

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


In Japan, where the benchmark Nikkei 225 ended the morning session 0.3 per cent 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 Mr Abe's flagship growth plan.


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