Asia shares gain ahead of US Fed chief's speech

Asia shares gain ahead of US Fed chief's speech

HONG KONG - Asian shares mostly rose Friday after the S&P 500 index notched up a new record high, as traders awaited a keynote speech by the Federal Reserve chief for clues on the timing of interest rate hikes.

Hong Kong gained 0.47 percent, or 118.13 points, to 25,112.23, Shanghai added 0.46 percent, or 10.35 points, to 2,240.81, Sydney rose 0.12 percent, or 6.74 points, to 5,645.6, Seoul climbed 0.61 percent, or 12.49 points, to 2,056.70 but Tokyo slipped 0.30 percent, or 47.01 points, to 15,539.19.

The upward momentum followed a rally on Wall Street as investors shrugged off geopolitical concerns, cheered by fresh signs of strength in the US economy.

The broad-based S&P added 0.29 percent to hit a record 1,992.37, while the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.36 percent to 17,039.49.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite rose 0.12 percent to 4,532.10, its highest level in 14 years.

Investors took encouragement from a host of positive data on the US economy - including a pick-up in existing-home sales in July and a downturn in new claims for unemployment insurance.

All eyes were on the Fed's annual monetary policy meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the heads of the US and eurozone central banks will speak.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak first, at 1400 GMT Friday, followed by Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president, at 1830 GMT.

Investors will be closely monitoring Yellen's speech for any hint of a change to the Fed's interest rate plans.

Last month Yellen told Congress the Fed would hold its near-zero interest rate policy until the US economy strengthens, but may raise rates if the jobs market continues to improve.

"This forum has been known to signal the Fed's intentions and at the very least guide market direction with regards to policy. So there is often a lot of anticipation," the National Australia Bank said in a note.

The dollar inched down ahead of the symposium, changing hands at 103.71 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with 103.85 yen in New York Thursday afternoon.

The euro was mixed, buying US$1.3287 and 137.81 yen against $1.3280 and 137.91 yen in US trade.

On the oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate added six cents to $94.02 while Brent crude for October gained five cents to US$102.68 in afternoon trade.

Gold traded at $1,279.40 an ounce at 0825 GMT compared to $1,282.27 an ounce late Thursday.

 

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