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Friday May 24th, 2019 3:15AM
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Asian shares mixed as markets await central banker meeting

By The Associated Press
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HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Monday as investors kept a wary eye on joint military drills between U.S. and South Korean forces and awaited a key meeting of central bankers later this week.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to 19,399.01 and South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,355.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 27,189.02 and the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3 percent to 3,277.54. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,710.80. Taiwan's benchmark crept higher and indexes in Southeast Asia were mixed.

MOUNTAIN MEETING: Central bank officials from around the world will be gathering for an annual three-day conference at a mountain resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, starting Thursday. Investors will be scrutinizing remarks from the policymakers due to speak, including Fed chief Janet Yellen and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi, for any hints on the future direction of interest rates and economic stimulus programs, which will have implications for global stock markets.

MARKET VIEW: "All eyes turn to Wyoming this week, where central bank heads and academics come together to swap ideas, and this time, in all probability, to ask, 'Where on earth is the inflation we all expected, and what do we do with rates?'" said ING Economist Rob Carnell.

WAR GAMES: U.S. and South Korean forces are starting annual joint military exercises that could further rile North Korea. The war games have the potential to stoke geopolitical tensions and market jitters more than usual, given recent threats by both President Donald Trump and North Korea.

DEAL CONFIRMED: Shares of state-owned telecom group China Unicom's Shanghai-listed unit, China United Network Communications, jumped 10 percent after it confirmed a plan to raise nearly $12 billion through a private share placement. Unicom plans to sell the shares to investors including Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu as part of an ownership reform plan. The plan was announced last week, but then the announcement was withdrawn, sparking confusion. China Unicom shares in Hong Kong jumped 7 percent.

BYE TO BANNON: The Trump administration endured another shakeup over the weekend when divisive strategist Steve Bannon was shown the door. Now that Bannon, who had called in an interview for an "economic war" with China, is gone, investors may feel it's a bit more likely the administration can achieve at least some of its pro-business agenda.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks turned negative in the final minutes of trading on Friday, falling to their lowest levels since early July. The S&P 500 lost 0.2 percent to close at 2,425.55. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent to 21,674.51. The Nasdaq composite shed 0.1 percent to 6,216.53.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude oil futures were flat at $48.51 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.42, or 3 percent, to settle at $48.51 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, dipped 2 cents to $52.70 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged higher to 109.25 yen from 109.20. The euro slipped to $1.1750 from $1.1761.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
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