Asian Shares Retreat Ahead Of Powell’s Speech

Asian stocks fell on Thursday as COVID-19 worries persisted and South Korea became one of the first major Asian economy to start exiting record-low borrowing costs.

Investors also awaited Fed Chair Jerome Powel’s remarks at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole gathering for clues on the timing of a tapering of monetary stimulus.

Chinese shares fell sharply as investors awaited more clarity on regulatory reforms and their impact on the technology sector. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 38.72 points, or 1.09 percent, to 3,501.66. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 278.26 points, or 1.08 percent, to finish at 25,415.69.

Japanese shares ended a choppy session on a mixed note as investors eyed the upcoming election of the ruling party. The Nikkei average edged up 17.49 points to settle at 27,742.29 while the broader Topix index ended with a negative bias at 1,935.35.

Airlines gained the most, with Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings climbing 2.9 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Central Japan Railway gained 1.3 percent and East Japan Railway added 1.8 percent.

Toshiba advanced 1.7 percent on reports that Western Digital was in advanced talks for a potential $20 billion stock merger with semiconductor firm Kioxia Holdings Corp, of which Toshiba owns 40 percent stake.

Australian markets ended lower to snap a three-day winning streak, with tech stocks and gold miners pacing the declines.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 40.70 points, or 0.54 percent, to 7,491.20 as New South Wales State, which includes the country’s most populous city Sydney, announced a record 1,029 coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours. The broader All Ordinaries index ended down 39.20 points, or half a percent, at 7,770.40.

Newcrest mining, Norther Star Resources and Regis Resources fell around 3 percent after bullion prices dropped over 1 percent overnight. Appen fell as much as 21.4 percent in the tech sector. The machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) firm reported a 35 percent slump in its half-year underlying net profit.

Seoul stocks retreated to snap a three-day winning streak as the Bank of Korea delivered its first pandemic-era rate hike to control inflation and household debt.
The Kospi average slipped 18.28 points, or 0.58 percent, to 3,128.53. Samsung Electronics, Naver and LG Chem all ended own over 1 percent.

New Zealand shares fell sharply after a2 Milk reported a nearly 80 percent slump in full-year profit. The benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 121.86 points, or 0.93 percent, to 13,051.62 while a2 Milk shares plummeted 11.3 percent.

U.S. stocks closed higher overnight amid continued optimism about growth after Dr. Anthony Fauci, top U.S. infectious disease expert, said COVID-19 could be under control by early next year.

Orders for long-lasting goods fell in July due to weakness in transport-related goods, but demand was strong in other parts of the economy, official data showed.

The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite both edged up around 0.2 percent to reach fresh record highs while the Dow inched up 0.1 percent.

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