Asia stocks drift ahead of US data, ECB; Samsung rises on Note Edge launch


TOKYO – Asian stock markets were lacklustre Thursday after Wall Street fell and as investors looked ahead to a European Central Bank meeting and U.S. economic data.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.2 per cent at 15,703.89 while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2 per cent to 2,055.58. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 per cent to 25,229.91. Markets in Southeast Asia were mixed while China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 per cent to 2,293.53.

SAMSUNG SHINES: Shares of Samsung Electronics rose 2 per cent in Seoul after it unveiled new products in Germany last night including the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note 4 Edge. The Edge created most buzz with a screen that wraps around one edge of the device allowing information to be displayed while the main screen is dark.

DATA DELUGE: The focus of traders is turning to economic data and policy announcements later Thursday. The European Central Bank announces the outcome of its policy meeting and holds a press conference; there are hopes of additional stimulus as Europe’s economy continues to flag. Among the U.S. data due is an update on services activity and an employment report from payrolls processor ADP that precedes Friday’s official monthly employment report.

ANALYST TAKE: With earnings reports now over, market attention is now turning to possible action from the U.S. Federal Reserve completely withdrawing its extraordinary stimulus measures later this year. Many players are taking a wait-and-see attitude. “The hesitation from investors is likely to increase downside risk in the short term as lower volumes trading through the market can lead to increased volatility,” says Chay Flack, equities dealer at CMC Markets in Sydney.

UKRAINE RELIEF: News of a possible cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine drove up stocks in Germany, the largest economy in Europe and one with strong economic ties to Russia. The CAC-40 in France picked up 1 per cent. Russia’s benchmark MICEX jumped 3.5 per cent.

WALL STREET: The S&P 500 slipped 1.56 point, a fraction of a per cent, to end at 2,000.72 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10.72 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,078.28. The Nasdaq composite, which is dominated by large tech companies, sank 25.62 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4,572.57.

CURRENCIES: The dollar appeared to pause from its recent upward swing, trading at 104.92 yen, down from 105.04 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.3147 from $1.3152.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 41 cents to $95.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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