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Asian Shares Mixed As Traders Await Powell's Speech


Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday as trade worries resurfaced and investors awaited cues from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole symposium on Friday and the Group of Seven (G7) summit to be held in southwestern France this weekend.

Concerns about Italy's political chaos and Britain's tumultuous exit from the European Union also kept investors on the sidelines.

Chinese stocks ended roughly flat as U.S. President Donald Trump toughened his trade rhetoric. Trump said on Tuesday that he had to confront China over trade even if it caused short-term harm to the U.S. economy "because Beijing had been cheating Washington for decades".

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended marginally higher at 2,880.33, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up 0.2 percent to 26,270.04.

Japanese shares fell slightly as trade tensions resurfaced and political uncertainty in Italy and Britain added to concerns over the state of the global economy. The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 58.65 points, or 0.3 percent, at 20,618.57, while the broader Topix closed 0.6 percent lower at 1,497.51.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group fell 2.9 percent after reports that it plans to lend employees up to $20 billion to invest in its Vision Fund 2.

Seven & i Holdings declined 1.6 percent and FamilyMart UNY Holdings slumped 1.8 percent after industry data showed sales at convenience stores in Japan dropped 0.6 percent year-on-year in July.

Australian markets also fell, dragged down by miners and retailers on renewed concerns about the global economic outlook. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 61.70 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,483.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 54.80 points, or 0.8 percent, at 6,572.60.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 2-3 percent as iron ore futures in China sank to their lowest level in 10 weeks. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group slumped 4.1 percent.

Banks ended broadly lower, with ANZ, NAB and Commonwealth losing 1-2 percent. Residential developer Stockland Corp. plunged 6.7 percent and fast food chain Domino's Pizza lost 4.8 percent on posting disappointing earnings.

WorleyParsons tumbled 3.9 percent after the company tempered growth expectations, citing macroeconomic global uncertainty. Logistics giant Brambles plummeted 9.4 percent as it warned of potential "contagion effect" from the U.S.-China trade war.

Meanwhile, Seoul stocks closed slightly higher ahead of the upcoming Jackson Hole Fed meeting, where Fed Chairman Jerome Powell may give a hint of his thinking on the future direction of U.S. monetary policy. The benchmark Kospi inched up 4.40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,964.65.

New Zealand shares fell sharply to snap a two-day winning streak. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index fell as low as 10,604.41 before recouping some of its loss to end the session down 94.52 points, or 0.9 percent, at 10,709.32.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Co plunged 12.1 percent after reporting a lower than expected annual profit. Fletcher Building shares rallied 3.3 percent after the country's largest construction company posted an annual net profit, compared with a loss last year.

A decisive rate cut in August has reduced the need for unconventional tools, Reserve Bank of New Zealand Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby said at a panel discussion in Manila.

At the August meeting, the RBNZ cut the official cash rate by 50 basis points to 1.00 percent to underpin economic growth and revive inflation.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended lower to snap a three-session winning streak as lower Treasury yields weighed on financial stocks, offsetting Home Depot's better than expected second quarter earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed around 0.7 percent, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.8 percent.

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