Stock markets around the world fell sharply Thursday as investors fretted over a raft of developments surrounding President Donald Trump that may put a brake on his economic agenda.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1.1 percent at 7,424 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.6 percent to 12,553. The CAC 40 in France was 1 percent lower at 5,263. U.S. stocks were poised for modest declines at the open with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.2 percent.
TRUMP’S TROUBLES: A run of Trump-related developments have rattled investors this week, ending a long period of calm in the markets. This week’s sell-off was triggered by a report saying Trump asked now-fired FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was ousted less than a month after taking his job for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. The White House has denied the allegation that Trump sought to steer Comey away from investigating. On Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian interference in the campaign, an acknowledgment of growing public demands to place the politically charged inquiry into the hands of an outside investigator with bipartisan respect.
TRADER TALK: “While I don’t believe at this stage that these reports regarding Trump will jeopardize his agenda, markets must reflect the challenges he now faces which ultimately make it more difficult,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. “At the very least, this distraction may delay the implementation of his plans, which the markets won’t like.”
JAPANESE GROWTH: Growth in in Asia’s second-largest economy picked up pace in the first quarter, expanding at a faster-than-expected annual pace of 2.2 percent. The latest figures add to an extended growth streak for Japan, where the central bank has pumped trillions of yen into the economy to boost growth.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index slid 1.3 percent to close at 19,553.86 and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 2,286.82. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.6 percent to 25,136.52 and the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China dipped 0.5 percent to 3,090.14. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 skidded 0.8 percent lower to 5,738.30. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and most of Southeast Asia also lost ground.
CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.4 percent at $1.1120 while the dollar fell 0.1 percent to 110.72 yen.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures fell 68 cents to $48.39 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, was 65 cents lower at $51.56 a barrel in London.