By Marketwatch and Associated Press
Asian stock markets finished mixed Thursday following Wall Street’s rebound as investors looked ahead to a speech by the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman for clues about possible interest rate cuts.
Investor reaction was muted following Wednesday’s release of notes from the latest Fed meeting showing conflicting opinions about rates.
Benchmarks in Shanghai and Hong Kong fell, while Tokyo and Sydney climbed.
Investors are looking to Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech Friday for guidance about whether the Fed might cut rates at its next meeting in September. The Fed cut its key policy rate on July 31 for the first time in more than a decade, citing President Donald Trump’s tariff battle with Beijing and other possible threats to economic growth.
Markets have a “high degree of policy uncertainty” ahead of Powell’s speech and U.S.-China trade talks in September, said Stephen Innes of Oanda in a report.
Mixed views rates among Fed leaders are “well documented,” but the notes are a “reminder of how challenging it could be for Chair Powell to meet the market’s exceedingly dovish expectations,” said Innes.
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.33% dropped 0.2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.64% fell 0.8%. Investors remained nervous over unrest in Hong Kong as protestors briefly faced off with police at a suburban train station.
Preliminary data Wednesday showed Japan’s manufacturing activity shrank for a fourth consecutive month, according to Reuters . The Jibun Bank Flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 49.5 in August from 49.4 in July. Readings below 50 signify contraction.
Elsewhere, the Shenzhen Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 +0.64% was about flat. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.34% fell 0.7%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan /zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed TW:Y9999 -0.14% , Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI -0.82% and Indonesia /zigman2/quotes/210597981/delayed ID:JAKIDX +0.24% were mixed.
Among individual stocks, SoftBank /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 +0.19% fell in Tokyo trading, while Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +0.98% and Renesas Electronics /zigman2/quotes/203872935/delayed JP:6723 +1.33% slipped as well. In Hong Kong, Geely Automobile /zigman2/quotes/200716015/delayed HK:175 -0.33% surged, while AAC /zigman2/quotes/201441510/delayed HK:2018 +0.46% and Wharf Real Estate /zigman2/quotes/205885756/delayed HK:1997 +1.06% declined. Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.44% dropped in South Korea, while Apple supplier Largan Precision /zigman2/quotes/210444196/delayed TW:3008 -1.65% gained in Taiwan. In Australia, Beach Energy /zigman2/quotes/200513631/delayed AU:BPT +1.27% and Fortescue Metals /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG +1.24% rallied.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks finished higher after minutes from Federal Reserve’s July meeting offered few surprises and suggested that the central bank wanted to remain flexible in implementing policy changes.