Asian markets mostly retreated on Monday, with traders likely holding their horses ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen at Jackson Hole on Friday.
In Australia, the ASX 200 closed down 11.58 points, or 0.21 percent, at 5,515.10, erasing modest gains from the morning session, with the energy and materials sectors shedding more than 1 percent each.
South Korea’s benchmark index, the Kospi, slipped 14.08 points, or 0.68 percent, to 2,042.16. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 0.43 percent in afternoon trade. Chinese mainland markets were also lower, with the Shanghai composite closing down 23.34 points, or 0.75 percent, at 3,084.76 and the Shenzhen composite dropping 26.03 points, or 1.27 percent, to 2,018.65.
Markets in Japan bucked the regional downward trend to finish up, likely boosted by a weaker yen and anticipation of further monetary policy actions from the Bank of Japan.
The Nikkei 225 added 52.37 points, or 0.32 percent, to 16,598.19, while the Topix index was up 8.01 points, or 0.62 percent, at 1,303.68. The Japanese yen traded relatively weaker against the greenback at 100.76 as of 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with the 99 handle it reached last week.
Stateside, Yellen was due to give a speech on August 26 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Monetary Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The annual Fed symposium has sometimes been used by Fed chairs to make important policy pronouncements.
Analysts expected market sentiment this week would hinge on expectations for Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole.
“The dollar index already seemed to be looking ahead for some slightly more upbeat language on the U.S. economy coming out this week,” said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at spreadbettor IG.
“Jackson Hole is a setting that is not designed for short-term market moves … much bigger questions will be debated about the efficacy of the inflation targeting regime,” he added.
Rabobank’s head of financial markets research for Asia Pacific, Michael Every, noted that the market has so far priced in only a 50 percent chance of the Fed raising rates this year.
“If we do get further certainty on that front [at Jackson Hole], even if it means it’s not going to happen until December, it could mean we get a bit of a pick up in the dollar this week,” he told CNBC on Monday.
Over the weekend, Fed vice chairman Stanley Fischer gave a mostly upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy in prepared remarks for a conference in Colorado, according to Reuters. Fischer said the Fed was close to hitting its targets for full employment and 2 percent inflation, which could be seen as further signs of an imminent rate hike.
Asia markets lower as traders eye Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole on Friday – CNBC}