Investing.com - Asian stock markets were mixed on Thursday, as investors looked ahead to testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in front of the Senate later in the day for clues regarding the future of course of U.S. monetary policy.
During late Asian trade, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index rallied 1.8%, China’s Shanghai Composite index inched up 0.3%, Australia’s ASX/200 Index closed 0.47% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index ended down 0.32%.
Asia’s mixed performance followed a lackluster session on Wall Street, where the Dow and S&P 500 both ended little changed following the release of unexpectedly strong data on U.S. new home sales.
Investors were looking ahead to testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen later in the session after a recent spate of disappointing U.S. economic indicators raised some doubts over whether the central bank will maintain the current pace of reductions to its stimulus program.
Ms. Yellen was expected to reiterate that the U.S. central bank would continue to roll back its asset purchase program, as long as the economy improves as expected.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei edged lower in subdued trade as the yen strengthened slightly against the U.S. dollar, weighing on sentiment. USD/JPY fell to a daily low of 102.22, as heightened tensions in Ukraine underpinned safe haven demand.
Japanese megabanks were lower with shares of the nation’s largest lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropping 1.7%, while Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group slumped 1.9% and 1.8% respectively.
Index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank saw shares drop 1.75% and 1% respectively.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the ASX/200 Index inched down as heavy losses in Qantas Airways weighed on the benchmark index.
Australia’s largest airliner saw shares plunge 9% after reporting a A$235 million net loss for the six months through December, compared with a A$109 million profit in the same period last year.
Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng surged to the highest level since January 23 as gains in the financial sector boosted sentiment.
China Construction Bank shares rose 1.5%, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China advanced 2%, while China CITIC Bank and China Merchants Bank picked up 4.4% and 2.4% respectively.
Index heavyweight Tencent Holdings rallied 5.2% to hit an all-time high.
Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a steady open. The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a loss of 0.1% at the open, France’s CAC 40 futures added 0.1%, London’s FTSE 100 futures indicated a decline of 0.1%, while Germany''s DAX futures pointed to a flat open.
Germany is to publish preliminary data on consumer inflation, as well as data on the change in the number of people unemployed.
Across the Atlantic, U.S. equity markets pointed to a mildly higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.15%, S&P 500 futures inched up 0.5%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a rise of 0.3%.
The U.S. is to release data on durable goods orders, a leading indicator of production, and the weekly report on initial jobless claims.
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