HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks struggled for direction on Thursday as investors stayed on the sidelines as they mulled regional economic data and awaited the latest Fed remarks while slumping oil prices weighed on sentiment.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up less than 0.1 percent to 19,697.014 while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 1,995.19. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent to 22,530.22 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China sank 0.5 percent to 3,630.42. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent to 5,125.30. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore fell while they rose in the Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand.
CENTRAL BANKERS: Trading was subdued ahead of remarks later Thursday from top officials at the Fed, as expectations grow that the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates from their ultra-low levels at its December meeting. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to deliver opening remarks at a conference on monetary policy implementation. Vice Chair Stanley Fischer is to speak at the same conference.
DATA DUMP: Investors were digesting the latest round of economic data from across Asia. In Australia the jobless rate fell to 5.9 percent in October, a bigger than expected decline and the lowest level since May. In Japan machinery orders, which are seen as a measure of business investment, recorded their first gain in four months, according to Kyodo News. That follows a mixed batch of Chinese data released the day before that showed retail sales growth edged up in October while factory output and investment weakened.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average losing 0.3 percent to close at 17,702.22 while the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 2,075. The Nasdaq composite gave up 0.3 percent to 5,067.02.
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude futures rebounded 26 cents to $43.19 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slid $1.28, or 3 percent, to settle at $42.93 a barrel on Wednesday after the American Petroleum Institute reported a big supply buildup, with supplies growing by 6.3 million barrels, far more than analysts expected. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 38 cents to $46.99 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 122.94 yen from 122.84 yen in the previous day's trading. The euro strengthened to $1.0774 from $1.0764.