Asia shares gain ahead of US Fed chief's speech

Anuj Chopra
AFPAugust 22, 2014
An elderly investor looks at stock prices at a securities exchange in Shanghai on August 22, 2014
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An elderly investor looks at stock prices at a securities exchange in Shanghai on August 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele)

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian shares mostly rose Friday after the S&P 500 index notched up a 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 and 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.


- Dollar down against yen -


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 $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 $102.68 in afternoon trade.

Gold traded at $1,281.40 an ounce at 1045 GMT compared to $1,282.27 an ounce late Thursday.


In other markets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation fell 0.29 percent to Sg$10.41 while real estate developer Capitaland rose 1.20 percent to Sg$3.37.

-- Wellington advanced 0.27 percent, or 14.08 points, to 5,167.00.

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

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

Hon Hai rose 1.38 percent to Tw$110.0 while TSMC was 0.8 percent higher at Tw$125.5.

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

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

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

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