Asian stock indices were trading mixed on Wednesday after US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke refrained from committing to another round of bond purchases, which is also known as quantitative easing (QE).
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 116.08 as of 12:28 p.m. in Tokyo, after rising as much as 0.4%. About four stocks fell for every three that gained. The Index fell 10% from this year’s high on Feb. 29 through Monday.
The Nikkei in Tokyo was up 0.2% while the Shanghai Composite Index was static. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.7%. The Kospi in South Korea dropped ~0.7%. The Straits Times index was down ~0.15% while the Taiex in Taiwan was down ~0.6%. The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.4%.
Bernanke on Tuesday offered a gloomy view of the world's largest economy while being non-committal on whether the US central bank was moving closer to a fresh round of monetary stimulus.
Bernanke indicated that the Fed had several policy tools for further monetary easing, which keeps quantitative-easing hopes alive.
A few Bank of Japan (BOJ) members said that the central bank should be prepared to take appropriate actions if eurozone debt problems threaten financial stability, according to minutes of the central bank's June meeting.
The BOJ members said that Japan's economy could be hurt if a substantial risk emerges from Europe's debt problems.
At the June 14-15 policy meeting, all seven policy-board members voted in favor of leaving the benchmark interest-rate target unchanged in the 0% to 0.1% range, as well as for maintaining the size of the asset-purchase program at 70 trillion yen ($88.4 billion).
The BOJ minutes showed that the central bank remains focused on providing stability to the Japanese financial system and that it continues to conduct monetary policy in an appropriate manner.
Japanese shares advanced amid some strength in the auto and precision-instrument sectors. A report in a local newspaper suggested that there may be dividend hikes to come in the Japanese precision-equipment sector.
Separately, China's broadest gauge of home prices showed average prices were unchanged in June from May, ending eight successive months of declines since October, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
China’s new home prices in June rose in the most number of cities tracked by the government in 11 months, as buyer sentiment improved after the central bank cut interest rates.
Prices climbed in 25 cities out of the 70 the government looks at, the most since July last year. The eastern city of Hangzhou led the gain with a 0.6% jump from May, while major cities Beijing and Shanghai recorded gains of as much as 0.3%.
The data showed that new home prices in China fell in 21 out of 70 cities last month from a month earlier. That is down from 43 cities that reported month-on-month declines in May and April, the data showed.
Home prices were unchanged from May in 24 cities.
The Chinese statistics bureau said that the country should stick to property curbs.
Against the year-earlier period, new home prices in June dropped in 57 cities, compared to the 44 that saw declines in May, and the 46 where average prices fell in April.
Hong Kong-listed real-estate developer stocks traded mixed in the wake of the Chinese home price data.
China’s State Council may announce measures to support economic growth after meeting today, according to analysts and state-run media.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday that the country’s labor situation will become more severe, underscoring concern that the weakest economic growth since 2009 will lead to increasing job losses.
HSBC Holdings Plc was weighing on the Hong Kong market after gaining sharply on Tuesday. The Anglo-Asian bank’s London-based executive in charge of compliance will step down in response to an ongoing US government investigation into money laundering.
HSBC executives also apologized for opening their US affiliate to Mexican drug lords’ cash.
Compliance chief David Bagley announced in front of the senators that he will step down from his post. Bagley said that his bank has fallen short of our own expectations.
US shares ended in positive territory on Tuesday, after Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola Co. reported solid results.
The dollar traded at $1.2293 per euro after touching $1.2317 yesterday, the weakest level since July 10.
Oil fell 0.3% after climbing to a seven-week high yesterday as American Petroleum Institute data showed third successive weekly drop in US oil stockpiles.
Copper climbed for the first time in three days and Asian emerging market currencies strengthened as investors anticipated more stimulus from the US and China. South Korea’s won and Malaysia’s ringgit gained for a fourth day.