Most Asian shares lower as US tax passage fails to impress

A man stands in front of an electronic stock board showing the Hang Seng Index at a bank in Hong Kong, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Most Asian stock markets fell Thursday as investors were underwhelmed by final passage of a sweeping U.S. tax revamp and were awaiting the Japan central bank's final policy meeting of the year. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Asian shares mostly lower after passage of US tax overhaul, China economy meeting

HONG KONG — Most Asian stock markets fell Thursday after the final congressional approval of a sweeping U.S. tax revamp. Chinese markets were mixed after leaders promised Wednesday to increase imports and reduce risks in the country's financial system amid slowing economic growth and pressure from trading partners to open its markets wider.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 percent to 22,806.28 and South Korea's Kospi sank 1.2 percent to 2,442.90. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.4 percent to 29,360.24 while the Shanghai Composite was flat at 3,288.57. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 6,063.60.

TAX PASSAGE: The U.S. Congress passed President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which brings generous cuts for corporations and rich Americans. Trump boasted that it would provide "rocket fuel" for growth in the world's biggest economy, though judging from the lackluster reaction of stock markets, investors had priced in the news well ahead of time.

MARKET INSIGHT: "With the positive result of the votes largely expected, U.S. equity markets found little upsides, leaving Asian markets with little inspiration," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

CHINA ECONOMY: The Central Economic Work Conference, led by President Xi Jinping, is a throwback to China's era of central planning and plays an important role in setting development goals for the state-dominated economy. A statement issued after the three-day annual planning meeting contained no new initiatives and was in line with the ruling Communist Party's plans to make the economy more efficient while also building up state industries.

JAPAN POLICY: The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy unchanged at its final meeting for 2017, signaling it will rely on recovering growth to help drive inflation higher. The key policy rate remains at minus 0.1 percent and massive asset purchases by the central bank are set to continue for as long as is needed to help attain a inflation target of 2 percent. The BOJ said inflation expectations were still in a "weakening phase."

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended little changed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.1 percent to 2,679.25. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 percent to 24,726.65. The Nasdaq composite slid less than 0.1 percent to 6,960.96.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was unchanged at 113.40 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1876 from $1.1870.

ENERGY: Oil futures fell. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 5 cents to $58.04 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 53 cents to $58.09 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 11 cents to $64.45 a barrel in London.

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