Asian markets were mostly lower on Thursday, overshadowed by tensions over North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch and mixed signals from the U.S. central bank.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.4 percent to 19,994.06 while South Korea’s Kospi edged down less than 0.1 percent to 2,387.81. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.3 percent to 25,458.27. China’s Shanghai composite index added 0.2 percent to 3,213.37. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.1 percent to 5,758.80. Southeast Asian stocks were mixed.
South Korean jets and navy ships fired a barrage of guided missiles into the ocean during drills Thursday in a display of military power two days after North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The North’s ICBM launch, its most successful missile test to date, has stoked security worries in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo as it showed the country could eventually perfect a reliable nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s June meeting showed policymakers are weighing when to start letting its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio shrink, a major turning point for the U.S. economy. Some Fed officials want to announce the start of that process within a few months, while others want to wait longer.
“The latest Fed minutes yielded a mixed perception from the market with varying views from members on both the inflation outlook and the timing for the reduction of the Fed’s balance sheet,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. “With the mixed tone from the minutes and the essential delay to the announcement of balance sheet reduction timing, there is no surprise why we are seeing the muted reaction from the markets.”
U.S. stock indexes finished mixed on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.2 percent to 2,432.54. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 1.10 points to 21,478.17. Nasdaq composite rose 0.7 percent to 6,150.86.
Benchmark U.S. crude added 53 cents to $45.66 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract slumped $1.94, or 4.1 percent, to $45.13 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 56 cents to $48.35 per barrel in London. In the previous session, it sank $1.82, or 3.7 percent, to $47.79 a barrel.
The dollar rose to 113.32 yen from 113.28 yen. The euro fell to $1.1349 from $1.1351.