Asian stocks mixed ahead of US Fed chair’s speech

Beijing: Asian stock markets retreated on Thursday as investors looked ahead to a speech by the US Federal Reserve chairman for signs of more support to an economic recovery.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul fell while Shanghai was higher.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index hit another high, closing up 1% on strong gains for tech stocks, though most of the other companies in the index declined.

Investors are watching Fed chairman Jerome Powell’s speech as part of the US central bank’s annual Jackson Hole symposium. Officials in the past have used the meeting, being held online this year, to make market-moving announcements.

This year, forecasters expect Powell to talk about inflation and the importance of Congress delivering more economic aid after its last round of stimulus expired. Partisan disagreements have prevented an agreement.

While the Fed keeps interest rates near zero, Powell has said previously Congress needs to take action.

Investors, “they may be a little disappointed, Craig Erlam of Oanda said in a report.

Barring fine tweaks, I don’t think central banks are going to have much to offer for the foreseeable future,” Erlam wrote.

The Shanghai Composite Index erased early losses, gaining 0.4% to 3,340.26, while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 0.5% to 23,186.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.1% to 25,212.01.

The Kospi in Seoul shed 0.6% to 2,355.57 while Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.4% to 6,140.60. New Zealand and Jakarta gained while Singapore retreated.

Markets have recovered most of this year’s losses, driven by gains for big technology companies investors expect to do well despite the coronavirus pandemic. Forecasters warn, however, that the rebound might be too big and too early to be sustained.

The latest data show US economic activity has slowed following its initial rebound from the pandemic.

The S&P 500 rose to 3,48.73. Tech stocks in the index accounted for more than 57% of its gain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3% to 28,331.92. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, climbed 1.7% to 11,665.06, its third-straight record high.

The Fed has been a primary reason for the stock market’s return to a record.

Benchmark US crude oil for October delivery lost 7 cents to 43.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 4 cents on Wednesday to 43.39. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 1 cent to 46.17 per barrel in London. It fell 22 cents the pervious session to 45.64.

The dollar held steady at 106.00 yen. The euro edged down to 1.1827 from 1.1831. (AP)

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