Asian Shares Broadly Higher as Markets Await Central Bankers' Summit

By Ese Erheriene Features Dow Jones Newswires

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

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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 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."

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.

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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 were last up 1.3%, while fellow miner Rio Tinto added 0.8% and Fortescue Metals 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.

Kosaku Narioka contributed to this article.

Write to Ese Erheriene at ese.erheriene@wsj.com

Stock markets were broadly higher across Asia on Tuesday, with Singapore performing especially well and on track to snap a five-session losing streak.

The FTSE Straits Times Index was up 0.8%, making up for some of the 1.9% pullback there since last Monday, led by strength in blue chips. Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 1% at the midday break, while Taiwan's Taiex added 0.7% and Korea's Kospi was up 0.5%.

Volumes were relatively light, though, as investors broadly sat on the sidelines ahead of the Jackson Hole economic symposium later this week.

The roster of top central bankers includes Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who will gather at the annual conference that kicks off 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" their listless trend, she said.

In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average was most recently down 0.1%, after earlier rising 0.1% after morning softness. It has fallen in 10 of the past 12 trading sessions to cut the year-to-date gain to 1.5%.

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. But the dollar rebounded this morning and was last at Yen109.31.

Meanwhile, Chinese equities took a back seat following earlier gains. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.2% in the morning session, while the Shenzhen benchmark was down 0.1%.

The Shanghai-listed shares of telecom firm China Unicom, which last week unveiled plans to sell stakes to key Chinese tech giants, rose by the upward limit of 10% for the second-straight session, as trading resumed Monday after a near five-month suspension, when the company's share-ownership reform plan was being completed.

Also in Hong Kong, shares of Great Wall Motor halted trading after the company confirmed its interest in buying Fiat Chrysler's iconic Jeep brand. The Chinese auto maker's stock was up almost 40% so far this year.

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 0.3% rebound in the S&P/ASX 200 index.

The metals sector "continues to benefit from an increasingly positive sentiment as economic growth betters expectations amid a weaker" U.S. dollar, ANZ analysts said in a note.

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 were last up 1.3%, while fellow miner Rio Tinto added 1.2% and Fortescue Metals gained 1.6%.

In the energy market, oil prices edged higher in Asian trade, helping buoy related company stocks. Nymex crude futures were last up 0.5% at $47.75 a barrel, while Brent crude futures were up 0.3% at $51.83 a barrel.

S&P Global Platts said the widening price spreads between the Nymex benchmark and the global standard Brent may "encourage U.S. producers to export more crude oil, which could help relieve pressure on U.S. stockpiles about the time they typically rise because of easing refinery demand."

Kosaku Narioka contributed to this article.

Write to Ese Erheriene at ese.erheriene@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 22, 2017 01:23 ET (05:23 GMT)