Markets

Asian Shares Mixed Ahead Of Powell's Speech

(RTTNews) - Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as geopolitical concerns returned to the fore and investors waited for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the annual central bankers' conference later in the day for clues about whether a shift to easier policy is possible in coming months.

Chinese shares rose even as tensions over the South China Sea escalated, with Beijing firing four missiles into the disputed waterway and the Trump administration adding 24 Chinese companies to a trade blacklist.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 20.37 points, or 0.61 percent, to 3,350.11, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.83 percent to 25,281.15.

Japanese shares ended a tad lower as U.S.-China tensions over the South China Sea escalated and investors awaited a speech by U.S. Federal Reserve chairman.

Traders also awaited a press conference by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday amid growing concerns about his health.

The Nikkei average slid 82 points, or 0.35 percent, to 23,208.86, while the broader Topix index closed 0.53 percent lower at 1,615.89.

Exporters ended broadly lower as the safe-haven yen strengthened amid a flare-up in U.S.-China tensions. Oil company Inpex declined 2.5 percent and Japan Petroleum gave up 1.9 percent. East Japan Railway fell 2.6 percent and Tokio Marine Holdings shed 2.2 percent.

Australian markets finished slightly higher as Victoria reported its lowest rise in Covid-19 cases in nearly two months. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 9.80 points, or 0.16 percent, to 6,126.20, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 16.10 points, or 0.26 percent, at 6,310.60.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose about 1 percent while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group rallied 3.1 percent. Gold miners Evolution Mining, Newcrest and Northern Star Resources gained 2-3 percent after gold prices rose to a one-week high.

Supermarket giant Woolworths Group climbed 2.8 percent after it reported a rise in annual supermarket sales. Afterpay rose 0.6 percent after the buy now pay later group reported a loss for the full year that narrowed from last year.

Beach Energy, Origin Energy and Woodside Petroleum gave up 1-3 percent after crude oil prices ended little changed overnight. The big four banks fell between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent.

Seoul stocks snapped a four-day winning streak after the country's central bank left its key interest rates unchanged at a record low and downgraded its GDP outlook, saying the economic recovery will be slower than previously forecast due to the domestic resurgence of Covid-19.

The benchmark Kospi fell 1.05 percent to 2,344.45 as the country reported 441 new Covid-19 cases, the largest daily tally since March 7. Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, lost 2.4 percent and top steelmaker POSCO declined 2.3 percent.

New Zealand shares rose for the fifth straight session, with the benchmark NZX 50 index rising 21.92 points, or 0.18 percent, to 12,053.43. Air New Zealand rose 0.4 percent after the carrier posted its first annual loss in almost two decades.

U.S. stocks rose overnight as a bigger than expected leap in durable goods orders for July pointed to an economic recovery and Moderna announced promising results from a small trial of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in elderly patients.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.3 percent to a six-month closing high, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.7 percent and the S&P 500 climbed 1 percent to reach fresh record closing highs.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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