Asia stocks lackluster as Japan falls, Fed speech awaited

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks were lackluster Thursday as Japan's index fell following a three-day holiday and investors awaited a speech from the U.S. Federal Reserve chief.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 2.3 percent to 17,647.45 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.6 percent to 21,181.74. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,952.42 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6 percent to 3,135.09. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent to 5,041.70. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Thailand the Philippines were lower.

JAPAN DATA: Preliminary results of a survey of manufacturers showed a sharp drop in new export orders that respondents attributed partly to weak demand in China. The reading of 50.9 for September was down from 51.7 in August, indicating a slower pace of expansion. Japanese media reported Prime Minister Shinzo Abe planned to announce fresh economic plans later in the day.

AUTO SHARES: South Korea's Hyundai bounced back after taking the brunt of negative sentiment in Asia stemming from Volkswagen's emissions-rigging scandal. It was the turn of Japanese automakers to fall with Japan's stock market open after a three-day holiday. Toyota and Nissan both dropped 1.4 percent, performing better than the wider market. Honda shed 3.2 percent and Mazda slumped 6.9 percent.

FED WATCH: Many investors are awaiting a speech on inflation and monetary policy Thursday by U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. Markets are looking for clues on the timing of the Fed's first interest-rate hike in nearly a decade after it held off raising the Fed Funds earlier this month. The Fed has rate-setting meetings in October and December.

THE QUOTE: Will Yellen "provide new information that could see the markets implied probability (of a rate hike this year) increase from the current level of 42 percent?" said IG chief strategist Chris Weston. "With this level of pricing, the Fed will not raise this year," he said in a market commentary.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 edged 0.2 percent lower to 1,938.76 on Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.3 percent to 16,279.89. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1 percent to 4,752.74.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 37 cents at $44.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.88 to close at $44.48 a barrel in New York on Wednesday after a weak Chinese manufacturing report. Brent, a benchmark for international oils, was up 26 cents to $48.74 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 119.93 yen from 120.25 yen in the previous trading session. The euro ticked higher to $1.1189 from $1.1182.


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