Asian indices painted a mixed trading picture on Monday after a gathering of central bankers failed to provide policy clarity which markets were expecting. Trading was subdued on the back of an uninspiring U.S. lead and a lack of economic data.
Wall Street ended mostly lower on Friday, as speeches by European Central Bank President (ECB) Mario Draghi and Fed Chair Janet Yellen provided no surprises. Yellen reiterated that slack remains in the U.S. labor market even as the American economy continues a five-year recovery and Draghi expressed confidence that stimulus already announced and a weaker euro would help the euro-zone economy, but noted the ECB is ready to do more if needed.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.2 percent on Friday while the Nasdaq added 0.2 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.2 percent, leaving it with a 1.7 percent weekly gain and about 4 points from its record close and within 7 points of its intraday record, both set Thursday.
On the geopolitical front, Ukraine marked its independence day on Sunday. The sound of shelling in rebel-held Donetsk was unusually intense, with rebels saying the Ukrainian troops were trying to score a victory to market their national day.
Israel launched more air strikes on Gaza on Sunday after taking its military campaign to a new level by flattening a 13-story apartment tower following a warning to residents to evacuate.
Tokyo rises 0.5%
"One of the dominant themes in Asia this week is likely to be strength in the Nikkei, aided by [Bank of Japan governor] Kuroda's comments from Jackson Hole [who] said they may have to pursue an aggressive easing policy for some time," wrote IG's market strategist Stan Shamu. "The important point here is that this shuts down the skeptics who were beginning to feel that the BOJ has done all it could. We have seen the Nikkei outperform the region today and the theme could continue this week, particularly if dollar-yen remains bid."
Mainland shares mixed
Profit-taking weighed on China's Shanghai Composite Index which closed down 0.5 percent on Monday.
Financials put up a dismal showing; Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Communications lost 0.8 and 1.4 percent each. The country's largest builder China State Construction Engineering shed 0.3 percent despite reporting a 35 percent jump in first-half net profit.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rebounded into positive territory to trade near levels not seen since 2 June 2008, as investors digested a mixed bag of earnings.
BYD was in focus after reporting a fall of 16 percent in first-half net profit; its shares reversed losses to gain nearly 3 percent on late Monday. Sinopec rallied 3.9 percent as its first half profit beats estimates on wider refinery margins.
Sydney loses 0.2%
Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 retreated from six-year highs to snap an eight-day winning streak on Monday as a fall in iron ore prices weighed on miners.
Earnings season continues in Sydney; Bluescope Steel closed down 13 percent. The steel maker reported a sharp recovery in annual earnings on Monday but missed market forecasts for earnings and core profit.
UGL reversed losses to close up 0.3 percent. The engineering firm reported a 22 percent rise in annual underlying net profit on strong revenues from the U.K. and North Asia regions. Caltex rose 7.4 percent after announcing that its historical cost net profit was down by 5 percent on-year.
Seoul rebounds 0.2%
South Korea's Kospi index held onto its modest gains in the afternoon session as blue-chip stocks pared losses.
Steelmakers were mostly lower on news that the International Trade Commission confirmed the imposition of tariffs on steel pipe imports from South Korea and 5 other countries. Index heavyweight Posco recouped losses to finish 0.6 percent higher while Hyundai Hysco and Hyundai Steel dropped 4 and 2 percent, respectively.
After bouncing between modest margins above and below the flatline, Hyundai Motor eventually closed up 0.2 percent on Monday. The carmaker had been in focus after its workers went on strike last Friday. Kia Motors, which announced that it was looking at areas for new factories near North America, lost 0.7 percent.
Meanwhile in Philippines, markets are closed for National Heroes Day.