Asian stock markets ended mixed Wednesday as investors remained watchful ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech at the Jackson Hole symposium.
Japanese benchmark Nikkei gained 0.40 percent or 36.52 points to 9069.81 and South Korean KOSPI Composite advanced 0.64 percent or 12.21 points to 1928.54 while Chinese Shanghai Composite fell 0.96 percent or 19.92 points to 2053.23, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.12 percent or 23.29 points to 19788.51 and India's BSE Sensex slipped 0.77 percent.
Investors are waiting for Bernanke’s speech for hints of what the Fed plans to pursue at its September meeting to spur economic growth. Expectations got high last week after Bernanke said in a letter to the congressional panel that there was room for additional monetary action by the central bank to ease financial conditions and strengthen recovery.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence data on Tuesday showed that the index fell to 60.6 in August, its lowest level since November 2011, from 65.4 in July and added pressure on Bernanke to give some indication of a further round of quantitative easing during his speech to international central bankers gathering later this week.
“An upward revision to US second quarter GDP and a bounce in July pending home sales Wednesday are unlikely to change this perspective although the Fed’s Beige Book will likely show some moderate improvement providing the Fed with useful information,” said a note from Credit Agricole.
The bias now is clearly for action from the Federal Reserve. However, it’s not a done deal yet as the data released throughout the last few weeks has generally pointed to a modest recovery and August payrolls data are due to be released next Friday, which could swing things the other way again.
Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi canceled his Saturday speech at the Jackson Hole conference due to heavy workload. Market participants feel that the policymakers are attempting to make progress in deciding which policies and tools should be utilized to support the single currency region before its next governing council meeting, which will be held on Sept. 6. Speculation is high that the central bank will unveil plans to help lower Spanish and Italian bond yields and will cut interest rates to record lows at its next policy meeting.
"It appears that markets are nearly done with adjusting their positions before key events," and some may be shifting their focus beyond Jackson Hole to U.S. economic data and the September 6 ECB policy meeting,” Takao Hattori, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo, told Reuters.
In Tokyo, Sharp Corp. surged 6.98 percent and Canon Inc. rose 1 percent while Renesas Electronics Corp climbed 35.09 percent on news that private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. will buy the struggling chipmaker.
Property developers and resource firms went down in Hong Kong. Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. fell 1.92 percent and Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd. plunged 3.45 percent in Hong Kong while Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd. declined 2.15 percent in Shanghai.