Tokyo • Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday but gains were muted ahead of U.S. economic data and possible policy announcements from Japan.
KEEPING SCORE: The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, inched down 0.5 percent to 15,450.42. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.2 percent to 24,965.42. and South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,080.43 Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.5 percent to 5,626.30. Markets in India, Singapore and Indonesia rose.
U.S. OUTLOOK: Revised data on U.S. economic growth for the April-June quarter is scheduled to be released later Thursday. But markets are more interested in employment data due for release the following week.
ANALYST TAKE: Hideyuki Ishiguro, strategist with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo, said action was muted in the absence of market-moving news, and players awaited the release of U.S. employment data next week. "Players are also waiting for signs on how long the weak yen might last," he said on NTV news. A weak yen is a plus for Japan’s exporters because it raises the value of their overseas earnings.
JAPAN POLITICS: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce his new Cabinet ministers next week, which could signal what’s in store for his so-called "Abenomics" policies that have helped Japan’s economic revival and stock prices. The policies are believed to have helped the yen weaken and prices to rise in Japan, curbing the negative spiral of deflation.
QANTAS FLIES: Qantas Airways surged 7 percent in Sydney despite reporting a record loss that stemmed from tough domestic competition, a struggling long-haul business and a massive writedown of the value of its fleet. Investors welcomed confirmation it would separate its domestic and troubled international businesses, possibly attracting new investors to the long-haul operation.
WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor’s 500 eked out a gain of one-tenth of a point, enough to set another all-time high. The index closed at 2,000.12 points, a day after its first close above 2,000. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,122. The Nasdaq composite edged down a point to 4,569. Trading was quiet ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend in the U.S.
ENERGY, CURRENCIES: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 10 cents at $93.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The euro rose to $1.3215 from $1.3192 late Wednesday. The dollar dropped to 103.77 yen from 103.91 yen.
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