Channel NewsAsia

Asian shares gain ahead of US Fed chief's speech

Asian shares mostly rose on Friday (Aug 22) 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: Asian shares mostly rose on Friday (Aug 22) 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 per cent, or 118.13 points, to 25,112.23, Shanghai added 0.46 per cent, or 10.35 points, to 2,240.81, Sydney rose 0.12 per cent, or 6.74 points, to 5,645.6, Seoul climbed 0.61 per cent, or 12.49 points, to 2,056.70 but Tokyo slipped 0.30 per cent, 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 per cent to hit a record 1,992.37, while the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.36 per cent to 17,039.49. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite rose 0.12 per cent 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 on 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.

DOLLAR DOWN AGAINST YEN

The dollar inched down ahead of the symposium, changing hands at ¥103.71 in afternoon Asian trade, compared with ¥103.85 in New York on Thursday afternoon. The euro was mixed, buying US$1.3287 and ¥137.81 against US$1.3280 and ¥137.91 in US trade.

On the oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate added six cents to US$94.02 while Brent crude for October gained five cents to US$102.68 in afternoon trade. Gold traded at US$1,281.40 an ounce at 1045 GMT compared to US$1,282.27 an ounce late on Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Bangkok added 0.36 per cent, or 5.56 points, to 1,556.97.

Construction materials firm Siam Global House soared 7.58 per cent to 14.20 baht, while department store operator Central Pattana rose 4.86 per cent to 48.50 baht.

-- Jakarta ended down 0.14 per cent, or 7.24 points, at 5,198.90.

Asia Pacific Fibers fell 1.52 per cent to 65 rupiah, while cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa rose 1.81 per cent to 25,350 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur slipped 0.20 per cent, or 3.82 points, to 1,870.99.

Malaysia Airlines dropped 1.9 per cent to 0.255 ringgit, plantation giant IOI shed 1.7 per cent to 4.75 ringgit while utility Tenaga Nasional gained 0.5 per cent to 12.50 ringgit.

-- Singapore edged up 0.04 per cent, or 1.41 points, to 3,325.50.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation fell 0.29 per cent to S$10.41 while real estate developer Capitaland rose 1.20 per cent to S$3.37.

-- Wellington rose 0.27 per cent, or 14.08 points, to 5,167.00.

Spark was off 1.72 per cent at NZ$2.86 after a lacklustre annual result but Trade Me was up 1.30 per cent at NZ$3.68.

-- Taipei jumped 1.37 per cent, or 126.72 points, to 9,380.10.

Hon Hai rose 1.38 per cent to NT$110.0 while TSMC was 0.8 per cent higher at NT$125.5.

-- Manila gained 0.52 per cent, or 36.60 points, to 7,133.09.

Alliance Global climbed 3.09 per cent to 25.00 pesos, Ayala Corp. inched up 0.35 per cent to 725.00 pesos, while Globe Telecom added 3.19 per cent to 2,008.00 pesos.

-- Mumbai added 0.23 per cent, or 59.44 points, to 26,419.55.

Financial Technologies India rose 4.84 per cent to 267.35 rupees, while Suzlon Energy gained 4.49 per cent to 23.25 rupees.