Asian shares mostly higher following gains on Wall Street

By ELAINE KURTENBACH Markets Associated Press

Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday in narrow trading, tracking gains overnight on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped as the yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent lower to 19,718.09. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was also almost unchanged at 27,400.17. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 2,360.26 and the S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 5,785.80. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.4 percent to 3,258.91. Shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks rose slightly Wednesday as Urban Outfitters and Target helped retailers rally, offsetting energy companies' losses. The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 0.1 percent to 2,468.11. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.1 percent to 22,024.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.2 percent to 6,345.11. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies inched up 0.30 points to 1,383.53.

FED MINUTES: The minutes from the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meeting last month did not include many details about the central bank's plans for letting its balance sheet shrink. The notes showed a divided Fed, as some members of its policy committee think that interest rates should stay about where they are because inflation is still low. But others felt that interest rates should be raised because delays might lead to dangerously high inflation later.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "U.S. investors shrugged off Fed fretting over low inflation, weaker than forecast housing data and crumbling business support for the White House to maintain stock market levels within 1 percent of all-time highs. U.S. dollar weakness followed the release of FOMC minutes that indicated 'many' members feared inflation will stay lower for longer," Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets said in a commentary.

JAPAN TRADE: Japan's exports and imports rose at a fast clip in July, reflecting a recovery in demand in China, Southeast Asia and the U.S., though export prices rose faster than volumes for many products. Exports rose more than 13 percent from a year earlier to 6.5 trillion yen ($59 billion) while imports jumped 16 percent to 6.1 trillion yen ($55 billion), helped by a surge in oil and coal shipments, according to data released Thursday.

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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 14 cents to $46.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 77 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $46.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 24 cents to $50.51 per barrel. It dipped 53 cents, or 1 percent, to $50.27 a barrel in London.

CURRRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 109.90 yen from 110.20 yen. The euro rebounded to $1.1778 from $1.1767.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed to this story. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay