Asian Stocks Advance as Investors Weigh Yellen Comments

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Asian stocks rose, extending two-week of gains, as investors weighed comments from central bank leaders for clues to monetary policy and earnings reports.

Caltex Australia Ltd. (CTX) soared 7.4 percent, leading the region’s advance, after the Australian oil refiner said it plans to cuts 350 jobs and raised its interim dividend more than analyst forecasts. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. surged 4.7 percent as earnings at Asia’s biggest refiner were better than expected. Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. slumped 9.2 percent after a person familiar with the matter said Roche Holding AG will decide against bidding for the almost 40 percent of the Japanese drugmaker that it doesn’t already own.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) added 0.1 percent to 148.65 as of 2:15 p.m. in Hong Kong, following two weeks of gains. Slack remains in the U.S. labor market, though interest rates could be raised sooner than expected, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Aug. 22. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi committed to more stimulus.

“The Fed doesn’t want to run too fast in trying to tighten things up,” Angus Gluskie, managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney, where he helps oversee about $550 million, said by phone. “They still see their employment improving but improving slowly rather than being robust. They recognize they have to normalize rates at some point and they can’t leave them hanging out here at these low levels forever, so they are continuing to flag that to markets and that’s the status quo.”

Regional Gauges

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) gained 0.5 percent and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland stocks listed in the city climbed 0.7 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index was little changed. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.5 percent after a technical fault delayed the open of CME Group Inc.’s Globex electronic-trading platform.

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.4 percent with Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker, providing the biggest boost to the Topix. Toyota rose 0.7 percent to 5,985 yen. Trading in Japan was 21 percent below its 30-day average.

South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.2 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.3 percent. India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 0.7 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.5 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index rose 0.1 percent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.2 percent.

U.S. Jobs

In her address at the Fed Bank of Kansas City symposium, which hosted central bankers from around the world, Yellen said that there was still a “significant” underuse of the U.S. workforce and the job market has yet to recover from the global financial crisis. She did, however, acknowledge the need for flexibility, saying if progress “continues to be more rapid than anticipated,” a rate rise could come sooner than currently expected and further increases could be more rapid.

Draghi, who is striving to avoid deflation and ignite euro-area economic growth, said ECB policy makers “‘stand ready to adjust our policy stance further.’’ He said the bank’s governing council will use all available instruments to ‘‘ensure price stability over the medium term.’’ Draghi has previously said the ECB may carry out broad asset purchases, or quantitative easing, should the inflation outlook worsen.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said at the symposium that his nation’s monetary policy was ‘‘having its intended effect’’ and that central banks must fight deflation by any and all means. He said Japan should consider using foreign workers to help mitigate labor-force shortages.

China Petroleum & Chemical, known as Sinopec, surged 4.7 percent to HK$8.07 after posting a better-than-expected 7.5 percent increase in first-half profit, widening the margin it earns from processing crude oil into fuels.

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