An electronic board displays stock information on the Australian Stock Exchange, which ASX Ltd. in Sydney, Australia.
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SINGAPORE – Stocks traded mixed in Asia-Pacific markets on Wednesday as investors became cautious, despite Fed chairman Jerome Powell saying overnight that some concerns about higher interest rates and inflation should be addressed .
In Australia, the benchmark index ASX 200 fell 0.92% due to losses in most sectors, including a 0.57% decline in the heavily weighted financial sub-index. Among the so-called Big Four banks in the country, ANZ shares fell 0.63%, Commonwealth Bank shares fell 0.66% and Westpac fell 0.97%. National Australia Bank stocks were hovering near the flatline.
Japanese markets returned to trading after closing for a holiday on Tuesday. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.74% while the Topix index fell 0.88%.
South Korean stocks bucked the broader downtrend as the Kospi index reversed early losses, rising 0.44%. The Kosdaq index rose 0.51%. In Singapore, the Straits Times Index rose 1.41% while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong fell 0.52%.
Mainland Chinese stocks were also lower: the Shanghai Composite fell 0.49% while the Shenzhen Component Index fell 0.55%.
The session in Asia follows a mixed end on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed steep losses following Powell’s remarks.
Powell said in his testimony to the US Congress that the American economy is far from its employment and inflation targets and that it will likely take time to make significant further progress. He added that inflation was still “weak” and that the Fed was committed to current policies.
Central banks see the rise in yields mixed, according to Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.
“Chairman Powell managed to tread that fine line of advocacy for market action but failed to replicate his reticent attitude,” Strickland wrote in a morning note.
Currencies and oil
In the forex market, the US dollar fell 0.15% against a basket of competitors to 90.034 after previously hitting lows of 89.982. The Australian dollar gained 0.34% and changed hands at $ 0.7938 while the Japanese yen was trading at $ 105.4 per dollar.
Carol Kong, a currency strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said Powell told Congress that the greenback fell “in line” with US stocks, but the currency’s movements were “modest”.
Better growth prospects for the US and the world remain in line with a downtrend in the countercyclical dollar, Kong said.
Elsewhere, oil prices fell. US crude oil futures fell 0.7% to $ 61.24 a barrel during Asian trading hours on Wednesday, while the global benchmark Brent index fell 0.4% to $ 65.11.