Asian markets mostly up with eyes on banker summit

The crises enveloping President Donald Trump's administration have fanned fears on trading floors that he will struggle to push through his economy-boosting policies

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AFP / Nicholas Kamm

Most Asian markets rose on Tuesday ahead of a closely watched meeting of central bankers later in the week, although there remain concerns about Donald Trump’s economic agenda and geopolitical crises.

Equities have been struggling in recent weeks owing to the ongoing stand-off between the US and North Korea, which has been compounded by Thursday’s terror attack in Barcelona.

The US president’s woes have fuelled speculation he will struggle to push through his market-friendly economy-boosting policies that had fanned a global market rally in the months after his November election.

The loss of top adviser Steve Bannon last week and talk that a leading member of his finance team could also leave have added to his problems.

“My sense is that the outlook for the US, and thus the economy and the Fed, is clouded for many traders and investors because of the uncertainty around the Trump presidency and its agenda,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

However, investors moved back into buying mode Tuesday, sending Hong Kong one percent higher, while Tokyo was up 0.1 percent at the break.

Sydney rose 0.3 percent, Singapore 0.8 percent, and Seoul 0.4 percent. There were also gains in Taipei and Wellington but Shanghai was 0.2 percent off.

There was little movement from Trump’s announcement that he will deploy thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, backtracking from a promise to pull out and end the 16-year conflict.

With few key catalysts to drive business, all eyes are on the Jackson Hole symposium in Wyoming at the end of the week, which brings together the world’s top bank chiefs.

Most attention at the meeting will be on Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen, with hopes for some clues about the bank’s plans to wind in its huge bond holdings.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s speech will also be closely followed as Frankfurt-based policymakers consider cutting back their own balance sheet.

“The key event this week is the Jackson Hole central bank policy forum,” Citigroup strategists wrote in a note to clients.

“The market spotlight will likely focus on Yellen, given the generally low US inflation environment and the likelihood of Fed balance sheet reduction occurring relatively soon,” they said, according to Bloomberg News.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 19,406.61 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.0 percent at 27,434.03

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,279.67

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1823 from $1.1810 at 2040 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2909 from $1.2895

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.18 yen from 109.00 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 16 cents at $47.53 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 16 cents at $51.82

New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 21,703.75 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,318.88 (close)