Shares wavered in thin but volatile trading in Asia on Thursday, following a bleak day on Wall Street led by declines in health-care stocks as outrage mounted over steep price hikes for Mylan’s EpiPens. Investors are also awaiting a speech by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s on Friday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent to 16,555.95 while Shanghai’s Composite index lost 0.9 percent to 3,059.71. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.2 percent to 22,880.77 and South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower to 2,042.51. India’s Sensex rose 0.3 percent to 28,130.52 while shares in Southeast Asia were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,541.90.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.4 percent to 18,481.48, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.5 percent to 2,175.44 and the Nasdaq composite lost 0.8 percent to 5,217.69. Losses deepened with a late-day sell-off in drugmakers. Mylan dropped $2.47, or 5.5 percent, to $43.15 after falling nearly 5 percent the day before. But shares are trading in a narrow range with many traders on vacation and sparse new economic data.
Outrage mounted over Mylan’s price increases for its EpiPens, medical devices used to deliver adrenaline to a patient suffering from a potentially fatal allergic reaction. Mylan bought the rights to the product in 2007 and has raised the price from roughly $100 for two pens to roughly $600. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton issued a statement Wednesday calling Mylan’s price increases “outrageous” and called for the company to slash prices for EpiPens.
Investors are awaiting Yellen’s speech at an annual conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Fed is expected to hold off on raising interest rates at its September meeting, but Yellen’s comments may offer clues on the likelihood and timing of a future hike.
“Low volumes and cautious trade are likely to dictate markets in the lead up to Janet Yellen’s speech on Friday,” Angus Nicholson of IG said in a market note.
Benchmark crude oil rose 14 cents to $46.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.33 to $46.77 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price oil internationally, added 5 cents to $49.10. It fell 91 cents to $49.05 a barrel in London.
The dollar weakened to 100.44 yen from 100.48 yen, while the euro rose to $1.1268 from $1.1263.