Asian shares lower as investors await Fed chair’s speech

Asian shares are mostly lower after a lackluster session on Wall Street following talks between the United States and China on the status of a deal meant to work as truce in their trade war

TOKYO —
Asian shares were mostly lower Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street following talks between the United States and China on the status of a deal meant to work as truce in their trade war.

The market has meandered recently on snippets of news about the coronavirus, developments on a potential vaccine for it and other concerns. But the global economy is still hurting overall, with airlines running at a fraction of their capacities and restaurants still mostly empty.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished at 23,290.86, down less than 0.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7% to 6,116.40. South Korea’s Kospi was little changed but inched down less than 0.1% to 2,365.84. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1% lower to 25,451.22, while the Shanghai Composite shed 1.5% to 3,324.35.

Markets are getting “a mixed bag” of signals, such as relatively positive U.S. home sales but a disappointing read on consumer confidence, as fears of more waves of COVID-19 infections persist, said Hayaki Narita, of the Asia & Oceania Treasury Department at Mizuho Bank.

“Depending on your point of view, data and developments may be encouraging or gloomy,” he said.

Stocks were mixed on Wall Street Tuesday, but gains were strong enough for tech companies and other pockets of the market to carry the S&P 500 to its fourth straight gain and another record high.

The benchmark index rose 0.4% to 3,443.62, even though slightly more stocks within it sank than rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%,to 28,248.44, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.8% to 11,466.47.

A report showed consumer confidence unexpectedly dropped this month, contrary to economists’ forecast for an improvement. But another report said sales of new homes accelerated faster than economists expected last month.

On the trade front, the U.S. Trade Representative said that “both sides see progress” following talks between the world’s two largest economies. China’s Ministry of Commerce said the two sides discussed strengthening coordination of their economic policies, though it gave no details.

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated recently, with President Donald Trump targeting Chinese technology companies in particular. The worsening relationship has been one of the bigger concerns for investors, as well as Asian regional economies.

Market players are also watching for the Fed’s chair Jerome Powell’s highly anticipated speech later this week, where investors expect to hear him talk about next steps for monetary policy. The central bank has slashed short-term rates to nearly zero and is buying all kinds of bonds, which helps drive some investors into the stock market and push up its prices.

Shares of Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Raytheon Technologies all slipped in their first trading after an announcement that they’ll drop out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average before trading opens Monday. Exxon has been the longest-running member of the blue-chip stock measure. It was first added in 1928 when it was still named Standard Oil of New Jersey.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 10 cents to $43.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 73 cents to $43.35 per barrel Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 3 cents to $45.89 a barrel.

The dollar inched up to 106.40 Japanese yen from 106.38 yen on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1815 from $1.1837.

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AP Business Writers Stan Choe, Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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