Investors focused on Fed Jackson Hole symposium

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets traded mixed on Friday as investors remained cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole symposium where Fed Chair Jerome Powell is due to speak.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 retraced early losses of almost 0.3% to trade near flat. The heavily weighted financials subindex reversed course from a 0.4% loss to trade up 0.21%. Energy and materials sectors were down 0.18% and 0.28%, respectively.

The Nikkei 225 erased some of its earlier declines, but the Japanese index was still down 0.33% while the Topix index fell 0.36%. South Korea’s Kospi turned positive and traded up 0.32% and the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong rose 0.55%.

Chinese mainland shares also rose: The Shanghai composite was up 0.53% while the Shenzhen component added 0.45%.

The highly anticipated Jackson Hole symposium from the Fed will be held virtually on Friday. Investors are expecting to hear what Powell thinks about the state of the U.S. economy and how he might guide the central bank’s exit from the measures it took to rescue the economy from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“Fed chairs have a track record of foreshadowing major policy announcements at Jackson Hole, and some investors think Powell will provide further clues around the timing of a tapering announcement, which could come as soon as the FOMC meeting next month,” Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a Friday morning note.

Strickland pointed out that an announcement on tapering is “highly likely” to come before the end of the year.

In overnight trade, the three major U.S. indexes finished lower during Thursday’s regular trading session. The Dow snapped a four-day win streak while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both broke five-day win streaks.

Currencies and oil

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar last traded at 93.063 against a basket of its peers. The greenback fell from levels above 93.600 reached in the previous week.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.99 against the dollar, strengthening from an earlier level around 110.09. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7239.

Oil prices rose Friday during Asian trading hours, where U.S. crude added 0.83% to $67.98 while global benchmark Brent rose 0.77% to $71.62. Prices fell overnight as new Covid outbreaks raised concerns about the recovery in global demand for oil.

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