Asian shares inch higher as investors eye corporate earnings

By YOUKYUNG LEE Markets Associated Press

Asian shares edged higher on Wednesday with scant leads from news headlines to move the markets. Investors are eyeing upcoming corporate earnings reports and U.S. politics for clues about the next Federal Reserve chair.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.1 percent to 21,830.78 while South Korea's Kospi was nearly unchanged at 2,591.14. Hong Kong's Hang Seng outperformed the region, gaining 0.5 percent to 28,303.84. The Shanghai Composite Index was flat at 3,388.53. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,908.00. Shares in Taiwan, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries were in the black.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Markets are bracing for an announcement for the next Fed Chair soon," Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary. Among the candidates is John Taylor, a Stanford University economist who advocates higher interest rates. His nomination would be perceived to be "a hawkish risk," it said.

FED HEAD: President Donald Trump is polling Republican senators for advice as he nears a decision to name a new head of the Fed. Other top candidates include current Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Fed board member Jerome Powell.

EARNINGS: A slew of companies in the U.S. and in Asia are announcing their quarterly financial results this week and next week. South Korean panel supplier LG Display, a supplier to Apple, reported a 150 percent jump in its net income for the July-September quarter. Other tech and auto exporters in South Korea and Japan are due to report earnings, which would give better ideas about global demand for Asian export items and the pace of global recovery.

WALL STREET: U.S. stock markets finished with gains on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.2 percent to 2,569.13. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 0.7 percent to 23,441.76. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.2 percent to 6,598.43. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 0.2 percent to 1,500.42.

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OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 6 cents to $52.41 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped 57 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $52.47 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 7 cents to $58.40 per barrel in London. It surged 96 cents, or 1.7 percent, to finish at $58.33 a barrel on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened 113.95 yen from 113.91 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1756 from $1.1762.