By Ese Erheriene
Asian equity benchmarks finished mixed Thursday after initially extending this week’s gains a bit further as minutes of the Federal Reserve’s meeting revealed a deeper-than-expected divide on the timing of the next interest rate increase.
The prospect of a slower pace of additional rate increases pressured the dollar in Wednesday afternoon U.S. trading, and the subsequent gain in the yen weighed on Japanese stocks Thursday. The Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.74% finished down 0.1% as the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.2473% lost ground against the yen in Asian trading.
Still, this year’s rebound for the yen doesn’t seen to be hitting Japan’s economy. Exports rose 13% in July from a year ago, the eighth-straight monthly gain, government data showed Thursday. Japanese stocks often fall when the yen strengthens amid fears that a stronger currency will hit exporters — a key facet of the country’s economy.
Stock gauges elsewhere in Asia showed small gains or loses Thursday, following modest gains in U.S. equities overnight.
While Rob Carnell, head of Asia research at ING, said, “Confusion reigns at the Federal Reserve,” he added Asian markets were likely to take comfort in additional rate increases are likely to come “at worst at a very-modest pace.”
Australia’s main index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.44% gave up 0.1%, while South Korea /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.11% and New Zealand /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR -1.71% closed higher by 0.6% and 0.2%, respectively, the latter having set record closing highs each of the past two sessions. Meanwhile, helping Korea’s Kospi was a 1.8% rebound in Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.33% amid broad early strength for tech stocks in general.
In Taiwan, Pegatron /zigman2/quotes/207039987/delayed TW:4938 +0.69% , Foxconn /zigman2/quotes/204111604/delayed TW:2354 -1.01% and Catcher /zigman2/quotes/205181919/delayed TW:2474 +3.07% rose more than 1% each, while the Taiex index was up a more-modest 0.8%.
The region’s biggest tech stock, Tencent /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -1.53% , jumped to fresh record highs in Hong Kong as its second-quarter results were notably stronger than analysts expected. It closed 1.9% higher. That helped limit losses for the Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.19% , of which the messaging/gaming giant is the biggest component. The gauge closed down 0.2%.
Also strong Thursday were metals-related stocks amid a rebound in prices fueled by the weaker dollar. Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -2.87% and Sumitomo Metal /zigman2/quotes/205273301/delayed JP:5713 -1.42% rose 1.4% and 2%, respectively.