China manufacturing drags on Asian stock markets

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were dampened by a weak China manufacturing survey Thursday, but Japan gained on the prospect of a stronger dollar after Fed minutes showed policymakers are leaning toward their first rate hike since the 2008 financial crisis.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent to 15,575.82 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,645.70. South Korea's Kospi sank 1.2 percent to 2,047.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 24,948.59. China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.7 percent to 2,225.44.

CHINA CHILL: Growth in China's vast manufacturing industry weakened in August, suggesting that the recovery in the world No. 2 economy is losing momentum and Beijing may need to spoon out more stimulus. The preliminary version of HSBC's manufacturing index fell to a three-month low of 50.3 from 51.7 in July, indicating that manufacturing businesses are barely growing.

FED MINUTES: Minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting showed that the majority of Fed policymakers believe the U.S. economy is improving enough for the central bank to act sooner than previously thought to withdraw the extraordinary support it's been providing through ultra-low interest rates. The debate on when the Fed should raise interest rates, which have been near zero since 2008, has intensified in recent months as the Fed winds down its other economic stimulus. The minutes from the July 29-30 meeting revealed a sharp debate within the Fed about how and when to scale back its help for a steadily improving economy.

NIKKEI UP, KOSPI DOWN: Higher interest rates in the U.S. could be a boost for countries such as Japan where giant exporters have much to gain from a strong dollar. But in South Korea, investors were jittery about the signs that the Fed may raise interest rates sooner than previously thought, which could prompt foreign investors to sell their stockholdings.

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market rose for a third straight day on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent to 16,979.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 added 0.3 percent to 1,986.51, less than two points away from its late-July record close of 1,987.98. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was mostly unchanged at 4,526.48.

YELLEN'S SPEECH: On Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will give a speech at an annual conference of central bankers and other policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It will be closely watched by markets for clues to her thinking on the timing of interest rate hikes.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 4 cents to $93.41 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.3248 from $1.3260 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 103.87 yen from 103.71 yen.