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Asian Shares Mixed As Traders Await Powell Speech

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Asian stocks ended Friday's session on a mixed note as Japan-South Korea tensions escalated and investors looked ahead to U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium later today for additional clues about the outlook for interest rates.

Chinese stocks edged higher after reports the Trump administration is planning for a round of in-person talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in September.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 13.99 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,897.43 and added 2.6 percent for the week to post its best weekly gain since late June. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also rose half a percent to 26,179.33 even as activists in Hong Kong prepared to lock hands across the city.

Japanese shares gained ground, thanks to a weaker yen and gains by defense stocks as a diplomatic row with South Korea escalated. The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 82.90 points or 0.4 percent to 20,710.91, while the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent higher at 1,502.25.

Exporters Honda Motor, Sony, Tokyo Electron and Subaru Corp rose between half a percent and 1.6 percent. Travel services provider H.I.S. Co rallied 3.8 percent on a Nikkei report that it plans to withdraw from a financially taxing takeover bid for hotel operator UnizoHoldings.

Defense equipment maker Ishikawa Seisakusho jumped 3.5 percent and Howa Machinery, a manufacturer of military and civilian firearms, soared 4.3 percent.

In economic news, overall nationwide inflation in Japan rose an annual 0.5 percent in July, official data showed. That was shy of forecasts for an annual increase of 0.6 percent and down from 0.7 percent in June.

Australian stocks rose modestly to post their first weekly gain in four, with financial and real estate stocks pacing the gainers. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 21.30 points or 0.3 percent to 6,523.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 0.3 percent at 6,614.30.

Goodman Group jumped 4.4 percent after the industrial property group reported a more than a 48 percent jump in annual profit. Real estate stocks such as Dexus and Mirvac Group climbed around 3 percent on expectations the government will stimulate growth in the segment.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac rose between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gained 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

South32 slumped 6.5 percent to extend losses from the previous session after reporting a 25 percent drop in annual underlying profit.

Gold explorer Gold Road Resources plummeted 17.1 percent after South Africa's Gold Fields sold a 10 percent stake in the company at a discounted price.

Vegetables and fruit producer Costa Group Holdings plunged 16.4 percent as it projected earnings at the lower end of its revised outlook range.

Seoul stocks fell slightly as tensions between Japan and South Korea escalated. The benchmark Kospi ended down 2.71 points or 0.1 percent at 1,948.30 as Seoul cancelled an intelligence sharing pact with Tokyo over a bitter trade dispute.

New Zealand shares fell sharply, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending down 102.87 points or 1 percent at 10,622.35. Dairy firm a2 Milk led the losses to end 3.4 percent lower.

New Zealand retail sales grew at a slower rate in the second quarter, a government report showed today. The total volume of retail sales rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent sequentially in the second quarter, which was slower than 0.7 percent increase in the previous quarter.

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index rose 0.3 percent after the country's central bank unexpectedly slashed its key interest rate for a second straight month in a bid to support growth amid a global slowdown.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mixed as strong results from Nordstrom and data pointing to a robust job market offset a report showing a contraction in U.S. manufacturing activity.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 slid marginally and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.4 percent.

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