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July 15, 2019, 11:05 p.m. EDT

Asian markets little changed as investors await earnings reports

Nikkei falls a day after holiday, RBA suggests openness to cut rates further

By Associated Press and Marketwatch


AFP/Getty Images
A pedestrian walks past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney.

Asian shares were little changed and mixed in quiet trading Tuesday amid a lack of fresh market-moving news as investors looked ahead to earnings season and Wall Street again closed at record highs.

On the trade front, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Monday that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer may travel to China soon for renewed trade negotiations if phone talks with Chinese officials this week are successful, Bloomberg News reported .

The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday released minutes of their July meeting, which indicated a willingness to cut interest rates — which are already at historic lows — further if necessary. “Members judged that a further reduction in the level of interest rates would support the necessary growth in employment and incomes, and promote stronger overall economic conditions, which would in turn support a gradual increase in underlying inflation,” the RBA said in its minutes .

Japan’s Nikkei (NIKKEI:JP:NIK)   fell 0.7%, as traders returned from a holiday Monday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HONG:HK:HSI)   edged down 0.1%, while the Shanghai Composite (SHG:CN:SHCOMP)   slipped 0.2%. South Korea’s Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721)   was about flat, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan (TAIWAN:TW:Y9999)  , Singapore (SES:SG:STI)   and Indonesia (INDONESIA:ID:JAKIDX)   were little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (S&P:AU:XJO)   was about flat.

Among individual stocks, Casio Computer (TKS:JP:6952)   slid in Tokyo trading. Sony (TKS:JP:6758)   and SoftBank (TKS:JP:9984)   also declined. In Hong Kong, Sands China (HKG:HK:1928)   rose, while CNOOC (HKG:HK:883)   and AIA Group (HKG:HK:1299)   slipped. SK Hynix (KRX:KR:000660)   fell in South Korea while Foxconn (TAI:TW:2354)   rose in Taiwan. In Australia, Oil Search (ASX:AU:OSH)   dropped after lowering its annual production target, and Rio Tinto (ASX:AU:RIO)   rose after it said a Mongolian copper mine would take longer and cost more than expected.

Wall Street had a wobbly day of trading with gains that were enough to nudge them further into record territory.

The S&P 500 (S&P:SPX)   rose 0.53 points, or less than 0.1%, to 3,014.30 after drifting between a gain of 0.1% and a loss of 0.2% earlier in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA)   gained 27.13, or 0.1%, to 27,359.16, and the Nasdaq composite (AMERICAN:COMP)   added 14.04, or 0.2%, to 8,258.19.

U.S. stocks have jumped since early June on increasing expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to help the economy, and investors are virtually certain that it will happen at the next Fed meeting at the end of this month. The only question, investors say, is how deeply the Fed will cut when it lowers rates for the first time in a decade.

Until then, the main drivers for the market will likely be the hundreds of earnings reports scheduled to come from big companies, showing how much profit they made from April through June.

“The lack of impetus for Asia markets have kept prices trading in a lackluster fashion this morning,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist for IG in Singapore.

Several economic reports are also on the schedule this week, including updates on retail sales, the housing industry and shoppers’ confidence. The U.S. economy has generally remained solid, but investors don’t expect this week’s reports to alter the direction of the Fed, which has already given hints about rate cuts given weakening economic trends around the world.

The White House’s repeated threats to raise tariffs has made companies at home more hesitant and hurt trade internationally. They’re a big reason China on Monday reported its weakest quarter of economic growth in at least 27 years.

Benchmark U.S. crude   slipped 15 cents to $59.43 a barrel. It fell 63 cents to settle at $59.58 per barrel Monday. Brent crude  , the international standard, lost 15 cents to $66.33 a barrel.

The dollar (XTUP:USDJPY)   inched up to 107.94 Japanese yen from 107.81 late Monday.

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