Asian markets mixed ahead of Bernanke speech

August 29, 2012
A man following how the stock market/AFP

, Hong Kong, Aug 29 – Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention turning to a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke later in the week as dealers look for an indication of any stimulus by the central bank.

And the euro was also holding up against the yen and dollar after successful bond auctions in Spain and Italy came against a backdrop of expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will restart a bond-buying programme.

Tokyo gained 0.40 percent, or 36.52 points, to end at 9,069.81 and Seoul added 0.64 percent, or 12.21 points, to 1,928.54. Sydney closed flat, edging down 0.07 percent, or 2.98 points, to 4,356.4 points.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was flat and Shanghai eased 0.75 percent.

Bernanke is due to address central bankers at an annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, with investors hoping he will outline plans for further measures to boost the world’s number one economy.

“Players remain in wait-and-see mode leading up to the Jackson Hole summit where more hints on information about the direction of monetary policy are expected,” said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Global markets enjoyed an impressive rally in August on hopes for fresh Fed stimulus and bond-buying by the ECB, while Chinese leaders are also expected to loosen monetary policy to kickstart the Asian giant.

On forex markets the euro bought $1.2563 and 98.64 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with $1.2565 and 98.68 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The single currency was provided some support by news that ECB head Mario Draghi would not attend Jackson Hole, which stoked speculation a new round of bond buying was near.

The dollar was at 78.55 yen against 78.49 yen.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead after mixed economic data.

The Conference Board reported its US consumer confidence index dropped to a nine-month low of 60.6 for August, down from 65.9 in July.

The report showed consumers grew less confident about business and job prospects in the coming months.

Before the opening bell, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 20 cities showed prices rose for the fifth straight month in June, by 1.0 percent.

The Dow fell 0.17 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.08 percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose 0.13 percent.

On Tokyo’s Nikkei index shares in troubled microchip maker Renesas closed up 35.08 percent at 308 yen after media reports that a US investment fund plans to spend $1.3 billion to take control of it.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) reportedly hopes to reach a formal agreement with the firm’s top three Japanese stakeholders — NEC, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric — as early as September.

The investment of 100 billion yen would dwarf Renesas’s market capitalisation of about 95 billion yen as of Tuesday.

Oil eased, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery shedding 31 cents to $96.02 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in the same month slipping 12 cents to $112.46.

Gold was at $1,668.30 at 0630 GMT compared to $1,661.90 on Tuesday.

In other markets:

— Taipei rose 0.40 percent, or 29.21 points, to 7,391.15.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.36 percent higher at Tw$82.7 while leading smartphone maker HTC gained 2.01 percent at Tw$253.5.

— Wellington closed flat, edging down 0.66 points to 3,628.39.

Telecom was down 0.2 percent at NZ$2.43 and Air New Zealand was flat at NZ$0.90.

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