Asian stocks in summer lull as markets await Yellen speech

HONG KONG (AP) — Stock markets in Asia moved sideways on Tuesday as the summer doldrums and a lack of economic data ahead of a widely anticipated speech by the Fed chief kept investors on the sidelines.

KEEPING SCORE: The benchmark Nikkei 225 index in Japan slipped 0.6 percent to 16,497.36 while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 2,050.87. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 22,912.02 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China gained 0.3 percent to 3,093.12. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.7 percent to 5,553.80. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand rose. Those in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia fell.

SUMMER LULL: Global markets have been subdued as investors and traders took summer holidays and major economic data releases were lacking. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is due to speak Friday at an annual conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates at its September meeting but Yellen’s comments will be dissected for clues on the likelihood and timing of such a hike.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Markets continue to trade eerily quietly in the low-volume low-volatility dog days of the Northern hemisphere summer,” said Angus Nicholson if IG Markets in Melbourne. “The markets seem to be already discounting the possibility that Yellen may look to talk up a September rate hike.”

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended slightly lower in quiet trading. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 18,529.42. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1 percent to 2,182.64 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 percent to 5,244.60.

ENERGY: Oil prices extended losses. U.S. benchmark crude dropped 43 cents to $46.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.70 to close at $47.41 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price oil internationally, dropped 19 cents to $48.97 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 100.10 yen from 100.34 yen in late trading Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.1335 from $1.1319.

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