Asian stock indexes mixed; market focus on ECB remarks

TOKYO – Asian stocks meandered Wednesday, as investor attention turned to upcoming remarks from a European Central Bank official.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.5 per cent in morning trading to 16,962.28. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 per cent to 5,271.80. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3 per cent to 2,016.81. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.6 per cent to 21,307.82, while the Shanghai Composite inched up nearly 0.1 per cent to 3,044.98.

WALL STREET: The mostly higher finish for U.S. stocks helped boost sentiments in Asia. The Dow rose 49.44 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 18,053.60. The S&P 500 index gained 6.46 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,100.80. The Nasdaq fell 19.69 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,940.33.

EUROPE FOCUS: The European Central Bank’s governing council is meeting, and investors are closely watching for what President Mario Draghi might say at the news conference later this week. Doubts persist whether the stimulus measures the bank has taken are really working, such as cutting interest rates and expanding a government bond-buying.

THE QUOTE: “Sentiments will be driven by the ECB President Draghi when he speaks,” said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader at CMC Markets in Singapore. “In his previous speech, Mr. Draghi hinted that the deposit rate won’t be cut further into negative territory. However with persistent low inflation and the euro now trading at six-month highs, Mr. Draghi could possibly backtrack on his previous statement and consider a further rate cut to fight deflationary pressure.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 68 cents to $41.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 84 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international benchmark, slipped 60 cents to $43.43 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: In currency markets, the dollar remained relatively strong, slipping slightly to 109.05 yen from 109.43 yen. The euro rose slightly to $1.1367 from $1.1336.


AP Business Writer Alex Vega in New York contributed to this report.

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