Hong Kong, China (BBN) – Asian markets were mostly subdued on Thursday, taking the lead from a quiet overnight session on Wall Street.
US stocks had closed narrowly mixed in the lead up to Thanksgiving as investors parsed through minutes from the US central bank, reports CNBC.com.
MARKETS ON THE MOVE
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.07 percent. The energy and materials sub-indexes led gains in the broader market after commodity prices strengthened overnight. Those gains, however, were offset by losses in the utilities and consumer discretionary sub-indexes.
South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index edged down 0.07 percent after markets opened an hour later on Thursday due to a nationwide university entrance exam. Blue-chip tech plays slipped, but several prominent manufacturing names climbed: Samsung Electronics fell 0.93 percent and Posco rose 1.44 percent. Cosmetics companies also made gains in the morning, with Amorepacific tacking on 2.27 percent.
Greater China markets edged down in early trade, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index off 0.15 percent a day after closing above the 30,000 mark for the first time in a decade. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.36 percent and the Shenzhen Composite lost 0.8 percent.
Elsewhere, Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday. US markets will also be closed for Thanksgiving Day on Thursday.
Stateside, markets closed narrowly mixed on Wednesday. The Nasdaq edged up 0.07 percent to notch a record close of 6,867.36. Other major indexes finished the session a touch softer.
THE LEAD UP
Minutes from the Federal Reserve released on Wednesday showed policymakers were largely positive about the economy, even though some officials had concerns about inflation. When it came to market conditions, several Fed members were concerned over “a potential buildup of financial imbalances,” the minutes showed.
Still, the notes reflected that Fed members thought gradual interest rate hikes were likely. Market expectations for a December rate hike stood at 91.5 percent on Thursday morning, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
“[T]he December rate hike seems as close to a done deal as one can ever get, though there was some interesting debate on what to do next year, with the current depleted FOMC camp split on how to operate when the inflation gauge is no longer a reliable pointer,” Rob Carnell, Asia head of research at ING, said in a morning note.
The dollar was little changed against a basket of six currencies after falling to its lowest levels since October in the last session. The dollar index stood at 93.254 at 9:40 a.m. HK/SIN.
Against the Japanese yen, the greenback traded at 111.11, weaker than the 112 level fetched at the beginning of the week and a touch softer than Wednesday’s close of 111.17.
Meanwhile, US durable goods orders for October dipped 1.2 percent, below the 0.3 percent increase expected. That was the first fall in the metric after recording strong gains for the three months prior.
On the data front, Singapore’s economy grew 8.8 percent in the quarter ending in September compared to the quarter before due to strength in the manufacturing sector. That was above the 2.2 percent increase seen in the second quarter and the 7.4 percent growth projected in a Reuters poll.
Elsewhere, the U.K. cut its growth forecasts as the government delivered its Autumn Budget on Wednesday. Growth in 2017 was projected at 1.5 percent, compared to the 2 percent estimated earlier this year. Ahead, growth is expected to fall to 1.3 percent in 2019 and 2020.
Japanese steelmaker JFE Holdings and India’s JSW Steel intend to bid for Bhushan Steel, which went into bankruptcy protection earlier this year, Reuters reported, citing sources.
Australian retailers were also in focus following media reports about e-commerce giant Amazon’s soft launch in the country on Thursday. While the news has yet to be officially confirmed, some Australian retailers were informed by Amazon about an “internal testing phase” starting on Nov. 23, Reuters said Wednesday, citing a source. Retail stocks were mixed: Harvey Norman was off 0.64 percent and Woolworths was higher by 0.04 percent.
“[I]t may be some time before investors can gauge [Amazon’s] impact on the local retail industry,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a note. “The first clue could be signs of extra pressure on margins over the vital Christmas sales period,” he added.
THE COMMODITIES TRADE
Oil prices were a touch softer after ending the Wednesday session at a two-year high. U.S. West Texas Intermediate traded 0.1 percent lower at $57.96 per barrel after settling at $58.02 on Wednesday. Brent crude futures were 0.21 percent lower at $63.19.