By Andrew Galbraith
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Asian stocks were flat in early trade on Wednesday after Wall Street ended higher, with the S&P 500 index touching a record high on Tuesday, and as lower-level trade talks between the U.S. and China due this week boost hopes of easing trade tensions.
But concerns over the broader impact of the legal problems of two close associates of U.S. President Donald Trump pulled S&P futures lower, weighing on investor sentiment.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index lost 0.2 percent.
Australian shares fell 0.5 percent after a leadership challenge to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday.
“With leadership changes and disunity amongst the major parties having marked Australian politics for a decade now, the disruption is likely to be met negatively by business,” ANZ analysts said in a note.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose as high as 2,873.23, topping the previous record of 2,872.87 set on Jan. 26, and is poised to become the longest-running bull market in the index’s history on Wednesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.25 percent to 25,821.95, the S&P 500 rose 0.21 percent to 2,862.91, and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.49 percent to 7,859.17.
But S&P 500 E-mini futures were 0.5 percent lower on Wednesday at 2847.75, after a guilty plea from U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“Next to these headlines, trade news fell completely under the radar,” Citi analysts said, noting “concern that something could come out linked to Trump or other of his associates” and that Cohen’s guilty plea sparked a late-session bid in U.S. treasuries.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 2.8225 percent compared with its U.S. close of 2.844 percent on Tuesday.
The dollar weakened, as comments from U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday in an interview with Reuters continued to weigh.
Trump said he was “not thrilled” with the Fed under his appointee Chairman Jerome Powell for raising rates, and said the U.S. central bank should do more to boost the economy.
He also accused China and Europe of manipulating their currencies.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1 percent at 95.184.
The dollar dropped 0.2 percent against the yen to 110.11, edging closer to the key 110 level. The euro was up 0.05 percent on the day at $1.1577.
In commodity markets, U.S. crude ticked up 0.3 percent to $66.05 a barrel. Brent crude was 0.2 percent higher at $72.76 per barrel.
Gold gained, with spot gold trading 0.1 percent higher at $1196.95 per ounce. [GOL/]
(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Eric Meijer)