Asian Shares Mixed After Powell Testimony

Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday even as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s upbeat economic view bolstered investor confidence in the world’s largest economy.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell on Tuesday offered a positive outlook for the U.S. economy and reiterated that gradually raising interest rates is “the best way forward.” He also downplayed the potential negative fallout from the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index fluctuated before closing down 9.69 points or 0.4 percent at 2,788.44. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index eased 64.26 points or 0.2 percent to close at 28,117.42.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares closed at their highest levels in more than a month, led by gains by automobile and technology stocks. The Nikkei 225 Index rose 96.83 points or 0.4 percent to 22,794.19, its highest level since June 15th. The broader Topix Index closed 0.4 percent higher at 1,751.21.

Toyota Motor, Mazda Motor and Subaru all rose over 1 percent as the dollar hovered near a six-month high against the yen in response to Powell’s comments. In the technology sector, Advantest advanced 1.5 percent and TDK added 1 percent.

Australian shares also rose, led by material stocks after BHP Billiton posted record annual output for fiscal 2018. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 41.50 points or 0.7 percent to 6,245.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 40.70 points or 0.7 percent at 6,329.10.

BHP shares jumped 3.3 percent, and rival Rio Tinto closed 0.4 percent higher. Financials also closed broadly higher, with the big four banks rising between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.

Fairfax Media jumped 3.3 percent on news the company and its rival News Corp. have agreed to use each other’s printing networks under a deal that will deliver cost savings.

On the other hand, falling oil prices weighed on the energy sector, with Oil Search ending down as much as 2.2 percent. Gold miner Newcrest lost 2.1 percent after gold prices fell more than 1 percent overnight.

South Korea’s Kospi average dropped 0.3 percent to 2,290.11 after the country’s government cut its 2018 GDP outlook and job creation target.

New Zealand shares fell slightly, dragged down by energy and consumer staple stocks. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 32.79 points or 0.37 percent to 8,946.10.

Z Energy shares tumbled 2.7 percent after the company downgraded its 2019 earnings forecast, citing unexpected levels of disruptions in its supply chain and high petrol prices during the first quarter.

Benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent, while India’s Sensex was moving down 0.2 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks rose as Powell’s upbeat comments as well as encouraging industrial output and housing data helped boost investor confidence in the economy.

The Dow inched up 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.6 percent to set a fresh record closing high and the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to reach its best closing level in well over five months.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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