ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Sailing Blind After Lack Of Clear Direction From Jackson Hole Meeting

By Ese Erheriene and Kosaku Narioka Features Dow Jones Newswires

Hong Kong bucks the trend, topping 28,000 for first time since 2015

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Asia-Pacific equity markets struggled for direction after U.S. and European central bankers didn't provide fresh policy guidance, though Hong Kong stocks outperformed on strong corporate earnings.

Market participants were watching for implications from developments on U.S. tax policy, in addition to Hurricane Harvey's impact on the global energy market. U.S. gasoline futures rose early Monday.

The Nikkei Stock Average was down 0.1% in early trade, dragged by a stronger yen. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.7%, New Zealand's NZX 50 fell 0.2% and Korea's Kospi was off 0.4%. Stocks in China opened up, however, with the Shanghai Composite Index rising 0.7%, driven by gains in financial stocks.

There were "no clear policy clues from the Jackson Hole central bakers' symposium," said Rob Carnell, head of Asia research at ING. And this "left investors pondering."

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi were silent on the issue of future monetary policy at the meeting, though investors were expecting clearer guidance.

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In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index was up 0.6%, trading above 28,000 points for the first time since May 2015, lifted by robust first-half results at some blue-chip firms.

Among those, Apple components supplier AAC Technologies (2018.HK) surged 10.3% to 136 Hong Kong dollars (US$17.39) after reporting on a 57% year-over-year rise in first-half results. Jefferies upgraded the stock to a buy rating from hold and raised its price target as well.

More broadly, positive comments on tax reform by the head of the U.S. National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, were good for markets. "But the political risk ahead of the debt ceiling deadline next month will continue to weigh on markets," said ING's Carnell.

Financial stocks across the region came under pressure. In Australia, the country's major banks, including Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AU) , Westpac (WBK) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AU) , were down between 0.8% and 1.8%.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar continued its weakening trend, with the WSJ Dollar Index down 0.1%. In particular, the dollar-yen pair was at 109.35, compared with 109.43 late Friday in New York.

The U.S. dollar's weakness is partly the result of U.S. companies refraining from sending money earned overseas home until the government lays out a tax-break plan on overseas profits, said Eiji Kinouchi, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline futures surged in Asian trading as Hurricane Harvey forced the shutdown of refineries that make up about 8% of U.S. fuel-making capacity. September Nymex gasoline futures jumped 6% and the more active October contract rose 4.1%. Nymex crude oil futures were down 0.4%, while the global benchmark Brent gained 0.3%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 27, 2017 23:36 ET (03:36 GMT)