Asia trades mixed, but Dow futures spike more than 220 points after Senate passes tax plan

A report that Michael Flynn, the former White House national security advisor, was directed by then-candidate Donald Trump to talk to Russia spooked Wall Street. That report has since been corrected to say Trump made the request when he was already president-elect
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Asia markets traded mixed late Monday morning, while U.S. futures rose, as investors digested news that the U.S. Senate narrowly passed an important tax bill in the early hours of Saturday.

Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 221 points to 24,459 at 11:26 a.m. HK/SIN. Nasdaq e-mini futures were up 31 points and the S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 16 points.

In Australia, the ASX 200 traded flat as the heavily-weighted financial subindex fell 0.68 percent. The country’s so-called Big Four banks saw losses in the morning session.

Shares of ANZ were down 0.84 percent, Commonwealth Bank declined 0.51 percent, Westpac fell by 1.3 percent and the National Australia Bank was lower by 0.47 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 declined 0.2 percent while the Topix index traded down fractionally lower. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi stood out and traded up 0.47 percent.

Chinese mainland markets reversed early losses to trade up. The Shanghai composite retraced losses of near 0.3 percent to trade up 0.12 percent. The Shenzhen composite traded near flat.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index also reversed early losses of near 0.3 percent to climb 0.77 percent.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Senate Republicans narrowly passed a bill to overhaul the U.S. tax system. The GOP still needs to overcome significant disagreements for the House and Senate to craft a joint bill and send it to Trump’s desk. Republicans hope to reach a deal by Christmas.

While the tax bill narrowly passing may have been a “political relief” for the Trump administration, it does not “eradicate fiscal uncertainty,” according to Vishnu Varathan from Mizuho Bank.

“Fact is, a possible U.S. government shutdown looms heading into 8th Dec and, in all likelihood, the backstop to avert a shutdown may be by the skin of the teeth as well,” he wrote in a Monday morning note. “And this could keep long-end yield upside in check if caution trumps exuberance.”

The trading week in Asia began following a decline in U.S. stocks on Friday after a shock from a since-corrected report about the investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia.

ABC News reported on Friday that Michael Flynn, the former White House national security advisor, would testify that he was directed to make contact with Russians during the presidential campaign in 2016. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his post-election contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

That report hit the markets hard, but ABC later corrected the story to say its source had clarified that Trump gave Flynn the directive “shortly after the election” to discuss strategies for fighting the Islamic State extremist group.

The news “provides a reminder of the cloud hanging over the Trump administration,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, wrote in a weekend note. He added that could cause “bouts of volatility next year and just adds to the likelihood that the GOP will lose control of the House in the November 2018 mid-term elections.”

“However, we remain of the view that it does not change prospects for tax reform (it’s already nearly there) and in fact just highlights the pressure on Congress to get it done,” Oliver noted.

In the currency market, the dollar rose from an overnight low of 92.881 to trade at 93.101 against a basket of currencies at 11:31 a.m. HK/SIN.

Among other currency majors, the Japanese yen fetched 112.73 to the dollar, weakening from an earlier low of 112.39. Despite the relative weakness in the yen, some of the major exporters remained under pressure: Toyota was down 0.21 percent, Sony reversed early losses to trade up 0.97 percent and Mitsubishi Electric was down 0.27 percent. Nissan shares rose 0.46 percent.

Typically, a weaker yen is a positive for Japanese exporters since it increases their overseas revenue when converted back into local currency.

The Australian dollar weakened against the greenback to trade at $0.7603 from a previous high of $0.7613, and the euro was at $1.1871.

Elsewhere, oil prices were also lower. U.S. crude was down 0.72 percent at $57.94 and global benchmark Brent fell 0.6 percent at $63.35 a barrel.

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