Asia-Pacific equity markets struggled to find direction after U.S. and European central bankers declined to provide fresh policy guidance, though China-related stocks outperformed on strong corporate earnings.
Market participants were watching for implications from developments on U.S. tax policy, in addition to Tropical Storm Harvey's impact on the global energy market. U.S. gasoline futures rose Monday.
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The Nikkei Stock Average was down 0.1%, anchored by a stronger yen. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.7%, New Zealand's NZX 50 fell 0.4% and Korea's Kospi was off 0.4%. Stocks in China were higher, however, with the Shanghai Composite Index rising 0.9%, driven by gains in banking stocks on expectations of solid first-half earnings.
There were "no clear policy clues from the Jackson Hole central bankers' 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 hoping for clearer guidance.
More broadly, though, 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 Mr. Carnell.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index was up 0.6% at the midday break, edging above 28000 points for the first time since May 2015 thanks to robust first-half results from some blue-chip firms.
Among those, Apple components supplier AAC Technologies surged 11.8% to 137.80 Hong Kong dollars (US$17.61) after reporting on a 57% year-over-year rise in its first-half net profit. Jefferies upgraded the stock to a buy rating from hold and raised its price target as well.
In South Korea, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 1.7% after the de facto leader of the company, Lee Jae-yong, was sentenced late Friday to five years' imprisonment for his role in a corruption scandal that brought down former President Park Geun-hye.
Financial stocks across the region also came under pressure. Australia's major banks, including Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, were down between 0.7% and 1.9%.
In currency markets, the U.S. dollar continued to weaken 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.
In commodities, U.S. gasoline futures surged in Asian trading as Tropical Storm Harvey forced the shutdown of almost 15% of U.S. refinery capacity. September gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were last up 5.6% and the more active October contract rose 4%. Nymex crude oil futures were down 0.4%, while the global benchmark Brent gained 0.3%.
Crude oil prices are likely to remain under pressure with the impact of the storm continuing for the remainder of the week, said Barnabas Gan, an analyst at OCBC in Singapore.
"It's bearish for crude oil and bullish for gasoline," said Mr. Gan. "The weather experts--if you trust them--say Hurricane Harvey will actually last days, which should mean gasoline will remain supported."
Lucy Craymer and
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 28, 2017 01:12 ET (05:12 GMT)