By Marketwatch and Associated Press
Nikkei ticks down as PMI shows contraction for fourth month
Asian stock markets finished mixed Thursday following Wall Street's rebound as investors looked ahead to a speech by the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman for clues about possible interest rate cuts.
Investor reaction was muted following Wednesday's release of notes from the latest Fed meeting showing conflicting opinions about rates.
Benchmarks in Shanghai and Hong Kong fell, while Tokyo and Sydney climbed.
Investors are looking to Chairman Jerome Powell's speech Friday for guidance about whether the Fed might cut rates at its next meeting in September. The Fed cut its key policy rate on July 31 for the first time in more than a decade, citing President Donald Trump's tariff battle with Beijing and other possible threats to economic growth.
Markets have a "high degree of policy uncertainty" ahead of Powell's speech and U.S.-China trade talks in September, said Stephen Innes of Oanda in a report.
Mixed views rates among Fed leaders are "well documented," but the notes are a "reminder of how challenging it could be for Chair Powell to meet the market's exceedingly dovish expectations," said Innes.
The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8%. Investors remained nervous over unrest in Hong Kong as protestors briefly faced off with police at a suburban train station .
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 finished flat, while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.3% to 6,505.90.
Preliminary data Wednesday showed Japan's manufacturing activity shrank for a fourth consecutive month, according to Reuters (https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-japan-economy-pmi/japan-august-manufacturing-shrinks-for-fourth-month-as-export-orders-fall-flash-pmi-idUKKCN1VC021). The Jibun Bank Flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 49.5 in August from 49.4 in July. Readings below 50 signify contraction.
Elsewhere, the Shenzhen Composite was about flat. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.7%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan , Singapore and Indonesia were mixed.
Among individual stocks, SoftBank fell in Tokyo trading, while Sony and Renesas Electronics slipped as well. In Hong Kong, Geely Automobile surged, while AAC and Wharf Real Estate declined. Samsung dropped in South Korea, while Apple supplier Largan Precision gained in Taiwan. In Australia, Beach Energy and Fortescue Metals rallied.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks finished higher after minutes from Federal Reserve's July meeting offered few surprises and suggested that the central bank wanted to remain flexible in implementing policy changes.