Australia leads gains, jumping more than 2% as Asia-Pacific markets mostly rise

Noble Horvath

Federal Reserve Chairman Powell said the central bank remains committed to supporting the economy  through its tools “for as long as it takes.” Powell also noted that “many economic indicators show marked improvement,” though the path forward “continues to be highly uncertain.” Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic could also weigh […]

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Powell said the central bank remains committed to supporting the economy  through its tools “for as long as it takes.”
  • Powell also noted that “many economic indicators show marked improvement,” though the path forward “continues to be highly uncertain.”
  • Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic could also weigh on investor sentiment, with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday reversing the lifting of some lockdown measures in England.
  • Cases in the U.S. have also started to trend upward following weeks of declines, though some health experts say it’s too early to tell whether the upward trend will continue.

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Wednesday as investors reacted to recent comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

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Shares in Australia led gains among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia jumping 2.42% to close at 5,923.90.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also higher on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.17% to about 3,279.71 while the Shenzhen component added 0.665% to roughly 13,110.07. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was gained 0.11% to end its trading day at 23,742.51.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi closed above the flatline at 2,333.24, following Tuesday’s decline of more than 2%.

Stocks in Japan were edged lower on their first trading day of the week following holidays on Monday and Tuesday. The Nikkei 225 slipped fractionally to 23,346.49 while the Topix index dipped 0.13% to 1,644.25.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index advanced 0.18%.

In a prepared testimony, the Fed’s Powell said the central bank remains committed to supporting the economy  through its tools “for as long as it takes.” He also noted that “many economic indicators show marked improvement,” though the path forward “continues to be highly uncertain.”

“Even as (the Fed’s) Powell has sounded caution about the strength and steadiness of a recovery — contingent on ‘keeping the virus under control’ — the wider Fed positioning is not one of unbridled pipeline stimulus,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, wrote in a note.

“This may limit follow-through rallies in asset markets,” he said.

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic may also have weighed on investor sentiment, with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday reversing the lifting of some lockdown measures in England. That came following a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Cases in the U.S. have also started to trend upward following weeks of declines, though some health experts say it’s too early to tell whether the upward trend will continue. The virus has taken more than 200,000 lives in the country.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 94.143 following its rise earlier this week from levels below 93.5.

The Japanese yen traded at 105 per dollar following a weakening from levels around 104.4 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7118, having weakened from levels above $0.725 this week.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up slightly to $41.74 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 0.1% to $39.76 per barrel.

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