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Asia: Shares extend Wall Street sell-off after Spain attack

[HONG KONG] Asian stocks followed Wall Street falling sharply lower Friday, compounding a global sell-off after a deadly Barcelona rampage claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group exacerbated mounting fears over White House turmoil.

In New York, the S&P 500 Index tumbled by its second-biggest drop of the year with financial and technology shares among the worst hit, as news broke of a van ploughing into pedestrians in the Catalan capital, killing 13.

Stocks were initially in the red from rumours Donald Trump's economic adviser Gary Cohn would resign owing to unhappiness over the US president's response to a violent rally by racist groups in Charlottesville, although a White House source denied the claims.

Hong Kong led the Asian sell-off Friday with shares down more than one per cent in morning trade. The Hang Seng was also dragged lower by market heavyweight Lenovo's plummeting share price after the Chinese tech giant posted a surprise quarterly loss.

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Tokyo was also more than one percent down by the break, as the Nikkei also struggled in the face of the renewed strength of the yen against the greenback.

Shanghai, Sydney and Seoul all fell, just as Asia-Pacific stocks had clawed back much of their losses from last week's slump over fears of military clashes between North Korea and the US, fuelled by angry threats from both sides.

"Last Thursday's Korean scare sell-off has now been followed by another significant decline," said Ric Spooner, an analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"This could be a more typical situation where volatility creates volatility as pent up profit taking and nervous investors are motivated to act as prices begin to weaken."

'24/7 US political melodrama'

Bourses in Europe closed before the Spanish attack unfolded, and mostly fell on uncertainty following minutes from a European Central Bank meeting highlighting concerns over the rising euro.

Sentiment in the US was also dented after the White House Thursday said Mr Trump had abandoned plans to form an advisory council on infrastructure, worsening business fears he will struggle to enact pledges to boost the economy.

"Diminishing West Wing support from both business and political allies will continue to abrade investors' confidence in President Trump's economic agenda," said Oanda analyst Stephen Innes.

Gold broadly held gains, while on forex markets the US dollar languished below 109.5 yen as safe haven assets received a boost from renewed geopolitical tensions.

"The go to currency haven USD/JPY continues to sag in early Asia trade as investors remain unnerved by the 24/7 US political melodrama that's filling the airwaves," Mr Innes added.

"A very risk off scenario was evident overnight, and I suspect there could be more room for this move to play out as one should surmise we've only brushed the surface on the Cohn saga."

On commodities markets, oil was little changed in Asia trading Friday morning with US crude hovering around US$47 a barrel.

Traders continue to assess US Energy Information Administration data Wednesday showing American production had its biggest weekly gain since the end of June even as crude stockpiles slid the most since September.