Asian stock markets muted, yen hits 6-year low

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Asian stock markets were muted Tuesday amid holidays in Hong Kong and South Korea. The yen hit a six-year low as the U.S. dollar strengthened on expectations the Federal Reserve will soon end stimulus and raise interest rates.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.3 percent to 15,752.58 but China's Shanghai Composite eased 0.1 percent to 2,324.84. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 5,593.50. Stock benchmarks rose in Taiwan and Singapore but fell in Indonesia and Malaysia. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were shut for public holidays.

BREAKUP JITTERS: A possible dismembering of Scotland's centuries-old union with England is alarming international investors and could spell trouble for the United Kingdom, which is Europe's third largest economy. It would hit Britain's trade balance and dent its income with oil reserves possibly reallocated back to Scotland. The pound fell more than one percent Monday ahead of the Sept 18 referendum after a poll showed a narrow majority in favor of Scottish independence for the first time.

DOLLAR BULLS: The dollar extended its rally, hitting 106.29 yen, the highest since September 2008. Compared with other major currencies beset by bad economic data or possible further stimulus, the dollar appears the most attractive as the U.S. central bank looks to end stimulus by October and consider hiking interest rates.

THE QUOTE: "The rally in U.S. stocks took a pause overnight amid the dearth of market-moving data, as investors consolidated positions after five weekly gains on US indices. It's a muted calendar this week," said CMC Markets analyst Desmond Chua.

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market fell amid a retreat in oil and energy stocks following a recent sell-off in the price of oil. The S&P 500 index lost 0.3 percent to 2,001.54 while the Dow Jones industrial average eased 0.2 percent to 17,111.42.

ENERGY: Oil prices fell for three days straight as geopolitical worries over Ukraine and Iraq have eased. Also affecting crude oil was last week's report of a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing and data Monday that showed China's imports fell for a second month in a row. Benchmark U.S. crude oil for October delivery rebounded a bit Tuesday. The contract was up 26 cents at $92.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 63 cents to $92.66 a barrel in New York on Monday, the lowest price since January.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 106.24 yen from 106.02 yen late Monday. The euro dropped to $1.2875 from $1.2897. The British pound continued its slide, falling to $1.6074 from $1.6097.