HONG KONG – Japanese shares rose Friday on the yen's weakness while other Asian benchmarks wobbled after Fed chair Janet Yellen signaled that policymakers intend to raise interest rates soon.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 percent to 17,967.41 as the yen hit a six-month low, helping shares of the country's big exporters. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 1,974.58 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 22,316.50. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.5 percent to 3,192.44 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 percent to 5,359.40. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines rose while those in Thailand and Indonesia fell.
RATE HORIZON: In remarks to Congress, Yellen suggested the U.S. central bank is on track to raise interest rates when policymakers hold their final meeting of the year in December. She said the improving U.S. economy has bolstered the case for raising rates, in comments that increased certainty for investors. The Fed raised its key interest rate in December 2015 but it's still at ultralow levels that have fueled a multiyear global stock market boom. Economists forecast rates will go up by a quarter-point in December followed by two more hikes in 2017. Markets are now looking ahead to data due next week that will give them more insight into state of the global economy, including manufacturing and service indexes for Europe and the US and a factory measure for Japan.
MARKET INSIGHT: "The greatest uncertainties, namely the election and the Fed rate hike, were significantly reduced over the last two weeks, which gave the market a good reason to refocus on the fundamentals of economic and corporate earnings," said Margaret Yang, an analyst at CMC Markets.
CURRENCIES: The greenback rallied on the prospect of U.S. higher interest rates. The dollar climbed to 110.73 yen — its highest level since the end of May — from 110.17 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro fell to its lowest in nearly a year, sinking to $1.0597 from $1.0614.
WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.2 percent to 18,903.82. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.5 percent to 2,187.12. The Nasdaq composite added 0.7 percent to 5,333.97.
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ENERGY: Oil extended its decline. Benchmark U.S. crude futures slid 45 cents to $44.97 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 15 cents to settle at $45.42 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, slipped 34 cents to $46.15 a barrel in London.