Asian stocks trade mixed as US-China tensions over the South China Sea escalate

Asian stocks began Thursday’s session mixed as a rally that pushed global equities to a record paused ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Treasuries edged higher.

Shares in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong slipped, while China opened flat. S&P 500 futures dipped after a surge in technology shares earlier pushed that index and the Nasdaq Composite to fresh highs for a fourth straight day.

Oil remained near a five-month high as companies and traders braced for disruptions from Hurricane Laura, which is set to slam ashore Thursday morning. The offshore yuan traded at around the highest since January amid signs of tight liquidity, while the dollar was steady. South Korean bonds rose after the nations central bank lowered its growth outlook.

Next up for traders will be the closely watched Jackson Hole symposium later Thursday, when Powell will speak. Investors are also monitoring the progress of coronavirus vaccines, while governments and central banks around the world continue to support economies on their recovery paths. U.S. durable goods orders were more than double estimates, indicating factories will help support the economic rebound in coming months.

Markets are now turning bullishly focused on U.S. Fed Chair Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole, which is expected to be a very market-friendly delivery, said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp. After all, I do not think anyone is willing to bet against the Fed finding a way to sound overtly dovish, especially during this pandemic induced easing cycle.

U.S.-China tensions over the South China Sea escalated on Wednesday with Beijing firing four missiles into the disputed waterway and the Trump administration strengthening action against companies that helped set up outposts in the region.

Here are some key events coming up: The U.S. Republican National Convention continues. Fed Chair Powell speaks at an event on Thursday. These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks S&P 500 futures slipped 0.1% as of 10:25 a.m. in Tokyo. The gauge rose 1% on Wednesday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.7%. Japan’s Topix index fell 0.5%. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.6%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.6%. Euro Stoxx 50 futures added 0.1%.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed. The yen was at 105.97 per dollar. The offshore yuan traded at 6.8841 per dollar. The euro bought $1.1831, little changed.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell to 0.68%. Australia’s 10-year yield fell five basis points to 0.90%.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude was flat at $43.40 a barrel.

Gold lost 0.5% to $1,945.98 an ounce.

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