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Tokyo stocks plunge in Christmas rout

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Tokyo stocks plunged on Tuesday as the few Asian markets open on Christmas suffered a holiday rout on fears about the US economy and a government shutdown in Washington.

Tokyo markets, which were closed on Monday for a national holiday, plummeted at the open on Tuesday, with the Nikkei closing down five percent — over 1,000 points.

It was the worst finish since April 2017 and followed a brutal holiday-shortened session on Wall Street that saw US stocks sink for a fourth straight session.

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In Asia, many markets were closed for Christmas, including in Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea. US and European markets are also closed for the holiday.

But the downturn affected those bourses that remained open, with China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbling more than two percent during the morning session, though it pared some of its losses to close down 0.9 percent.

Markets have been roiled by ongoing uncertainty in the United States, with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin widely panned for holding a call with the six biggest US banks and then reporting on Twitter that the six CEOs have “ample liquidity” available.

Investors were also unnerved by weekend news reports that US President Donald Trump had asked about the possibility of firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, accounts that Mnuchin said Trump had denied.

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Last week, the central bank hiked rates, infuriating Trump who has ignored the traditional respect for the Fed’s independence, calling it “crazy”, “out of control” and a greater economic threat than China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped nearly three percent by the close on Monday, with the broad-based S&P 500 down 2.7 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index down more than two percent.

The declines brought the S&P 500 to the brink of a “bear market,” considered a drop of 20 percent from its peak.

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CNBC reported the losses were the worst ever for Wall Street on Christmas Eve, a holiday-shortened session ahead of Tuesday, when markets are closed.

Stephen Innes, head of APAC trading at OANDA, said Trump’s spat with the Fed and Mnuchin’s call with the banks had “markets running for cover.”

Investors “have no confidence in the administration. Markets are driven by perception and it is flat-out bad,” he told AFP.

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A stronger yen was adding to the woes for markets in Japan, he added.

“I can’t tell you where the bottom will be as there are various risks,” said Makoto Sengoku, a market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

“There are no signs of selling running its course or big buyers emerging,” he told AFP.

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– Key figures around 0700 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei DOWN 5.0 percent at 19,155.74 (close)

Hong Kong – CLOSED

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 2,504.82 (close)

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Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1414 from $1.1410

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.10 from 110.18

Pound/dollar: FLAT at $1.2704

Oil – Brent Crude: CLOSED

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Oil – West Texas Intermediate: CLOSED

New York – Dow: DOWN 2.9 percent at 21,792.20 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 6,685.99 (close)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘Trump’s defense eats itself’: Neal Katyal reveals why the president’s denial is incriminating

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President Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant on Saturday after a day at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.

Trump quoted Peter Schweizer, the author of the controversial book Clinton Cash.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1175527658551173120

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‘He knows I’m actually better at the internet’: Andrew Yang says Trump is too scared to attack him

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Presidential candidate Andrew Yang suggested President Donald Trump is too scared to attack him during a CNN appearance on Saturday.

Yang, whose campaign has been buoyed by his passionate online supporters known as the "Yang Gang," was interviewed by Van Jones.

"Part of the thing is that you’re such an unlikely candidate that people, they’re not shooting at you, even Donald Trump doesn’t have a bad name for you yet," Jones noted. "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Well, Donald Trump hasn’t messed with me online because he knows I’m actually better at the internet than he is," Yang replied, to cheers from the crowd.

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2020 Election

NYT wonders if Republicans challenging Trump are the ‘Three Musketeers’ or the ‘Three Stooges’

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President Donald Trump's three Republican challengers for the GOP's 2020 nomination were featured in a new 1,500-word profile by The New York Times that was published online on Saturday.

Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and former Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA) are all challenging the incumbent.

"Supporters of Mr. Trump’s Republican challengers refer to them as the 'Three Musketeers,' and argue that having a trio of challengers — however long their long-shot bids are — could add up to enough of a nuisance to whittle away support for a vulnerable incumbent," the newspaper reported. "The president, on Twitter, has given them a more demeaning nickname: 'the Three Stooges.'"

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