ASIA MARKETS: Singapore Ends 5-day Slump, Leads Asian-market Gains

By Ese Erheriene Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nikkei rises slightly, metal prices boost Australian miners

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Equity markets found firmer footing in the Asia-Pacific region early Tuesday, with stocks in Singapore leading gains following five straight sessions of declines.

The FTSE Straits Times Index gained 0.7% in early trading, making up for some of the 1.9% pullback there since last Monday, led by strength in blue chips. Elsewhere, Korea's Kospi was up 0.5%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.7% in early trade.

Still, trading volumes broadly remained light, as investors took to the sidelines ahead of the Jackson Hole, Wyo., economic symposium this week.

Top central bankers, including Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, will gather at the annual conference that starts Thursday.

"The market continues to wait on policy makers for direction," said Michala Marcussen, global head of economics at Société Générale. "Unless there is fresh guidance forthcoming from ECB President Draghi or from officials at Jackson Hole, markets are likely to keep trending."

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In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average was up in morning trade, after recovering from early softness, having fallen in 10 of the past 12 trading sessions to cut the year-to-date gain to 1.5%. All listed companies with market capitalizations of at least $5 billion there were trading within 2% of Monday's close, underscoring directionless trading, thanks to the earlier strength in the yen.

The Japanese currency rose after Monday stock trading ended, with the dollar falling below Yen109 overnight from Yen109.27. That put pressure on the export-heavy index. Still, the dollar rebounded and was last at Yen109.23.

Among the bright spots in the region, mining-company stocks in Australia notched strong gains after a solid rise in metal prices in the previous session and good news from heavyweight BHP Billiton. The gains helped drive a 0.2% rebound in the S&P/ASX 200 index.

BHP declared on Tuesday that it would triple its final dividend, joining fellow miners in rewarding shareholders as its fortunes have rebounded with a recovery in commodity prices. Like its peers, BHP has spent recent years focused on lowering costs and working to strengthen its balance sheet. The company also said Tuesday that it was looking to sell its onshore U.S. oil-and-gas operations.

Shares of BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) were last up 1.3%, while fellow miner Rio Tinto (RIO) added 0.8% and Fortescue Metals (FMG.AU) gained 1.2%.

In the energy market, oil prices moved higher in Asian trade, helping buoy related company stocks. Nymex crude futures were last up 0.4% at $47.70 a barrel, while Brent crude futures were up 0.3% at $51.80 a barrel.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 21, 2017 23:05 ET (03:05 GMT)