KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.1 percent to 21,524.02, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 5,685.50 in early trading. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 2,070.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched up less than 0.1 percent to 26,164.46, while the Shanghai Composite was also up less than 0.1 percent at 2,606.52. Shares were also higher in Indonesia and Taiwan.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Clouded with much uncertainty, markets will likely remain jittery and may struggle to hold on to the gains," says Jayden Loh, a Trader at IG in Singapore.
WALL STREET: The S&P 500 index fell 4.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,695.95. The benchmark index had been down as much as 2.9 percent. The Dow dropped 79.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,947.67. The average briefly slumped as much as 784 points. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite reversed an early loss to finish with a gain, adding 29.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,188.26. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 3.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,477.41. U.S. stock and bond trading were closed Wednesday because of a national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.
FED WATCH: Last week, stocks jumped after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year while it gauges the impact of its credit tightening program. The Fed has raised rates three times this year and is expected to boost rates for a fourth time at its Dec. 18-19 meeting of policymakers. At the same time, there has been growing evidence that global economic growth is slowing.
TRADE WATCH: The gap between what the U.S. sells and what it buys from foreign countries hit $55.5 billion in October, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The politically sensitive deficit with China rose 7.1 percent to a record $43.1 billion. The dramatic arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China. Skepticism is growing about the trade truce Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude fell 24 cents to $51.25 a barrel. It dropped 2.6 percent to $51.49 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 39 cents to $59.67.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.75 yen from 112.80 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1376 from $1.1345.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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