Asian stocks were mixed Thursday, as traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that analysts said could provide clues about the central bank's next move.
In Australia, the ASX 200 closed down 19.77 points, or 0.36 percent, at 5,541.90. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 41.35 points, or 0.25 percent, to 16,555.95, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed near flat at 2,042.92. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index climbed 0.13 percent in late afternoon trade.
Chinese mainland markets reversed some of their early losses. The Shanghai composite fell 17.65 points, or 0.57 percent, to 3,068.22, dragged lower by a 2.15 percent decline in the property sector. The Shenzhen composite dropped 11.26 points, or 0.55 percent, to 2,019.01.
As foreign exchange, stock and bond markets all lacked direction, analysts said Yellen's speech on Friday at an annual economic policy symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was the only big talking point among traders.
"If there were to be shock from Yellen (it hasn't happened yet), it would be that she plays up risk of a rate rise at the 20/21 September Federal Open Market Committee meeting - an event currently ascribed only a 27 percent probability by the U.S. rates markets," Ray Attrill, global co-head of foreign exchange strategy at the National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.
"[The] most we might reasonably expect in this respect is that Yellen will now say that every meeting is now 'live'."
However, Attrill added that the bigger talking point at Jackson Hole should be the effectiveness of already stretched monetary policy in tackling a new downturn.
Stateside, major indexes slipped, with the S&P 500 falling 11.46 points, or 0.52 percent, to 2,175.44. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 65.82 points, or 0.35 percent, to 18,481.48, while the Nasdaq composite was lower by 42.38 points, or 0.81 percent, to 5,217.69.