Asian markets edge higher as investors await earnings

By YOUKYUNG LEE Markets Associated Press

  • AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

    A man cycles past in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, July 14. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Asian shares were marginally higher on Friday as investors awaited a raft of corporate earnings due out next week. The Federal Reserve chair's second day of testimony to Congress generated little market-moving news.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.2 percent to 20,144.82 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,415.30. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was flat at 26,344.27 and the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.2 percent to 3,212.46. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 5,767.80. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

EARNINGS WATCH: Companies in the U.S. and in Asia will begin reporting their quarterly financial results and give their earnings forecasts for upcoming quarters next week. Upbeat earnings in the U.S. could boost the sentiment of investors in Asia.

ANALYST'S VIEW: "Looking forward, market participants are waiting for earnings season to paint a clearer picture of market direction over the next few weeks, as the market focus has now shifted to companies' mid-year reports," said Margaret Yang, a market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.

FED WATCH: Yellen rehashed her key message in comments to Congress on Thursday, speaking of the dual risks of inflation: prices rising too slowly and prices accelerating too quickly. She also said it would be premature to conclude that a recent slowdown in price gains means the Fed cannot achieve its goal of 2 percent annual inflation. The remarks were seen as signaling that the Fed might slow the pace of rate hikes if inflation remains below the Fed's 2 percent target. That has eased concerns the Fed was raising interest rates too quickly.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished with modest gains on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.2 percent to 2,447.83. The Dow rose 0.1 percent to 21,553.09. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2 percent to 6,274.44. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks inched up 0.1 percent to 1,425.66.

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OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 9 cents to $45.99 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 59 cents, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $46.08 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 7 cents to $48.35 per barrel in London. On Thursday, it added 68 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $48.42 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.44 yen from 113.28 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1408 from $1.1398.