1. Asian stocks: Caution before Janet Yellen’s Jackson Hole speech crimps risk appetites

Asian stocks: Caution before Janet Yellen’s Jackson Hole speech crimps risk appetites

Asian stocks tracked an overnight dip on Wall Street and edged down early in the session, while geopolitical tensions helped shore up crude oil prices.

By: | Updated: August 26, 2016 9:56 AM
Oil prices were lifted overnight by U.S.-Iran military tensions in the Gulf and speculation the dollar would fall in response to Yellen's policy speech. (Reuters)

Oil prices were lifted overnight by U.S.-Iran military tensions in the Gulf and speculation the dollar would fall in response to Yellen’s policy speech. (Reuters)

Caution ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, limited movements across global markets on Friday.

Asian stocks tracked an overnight dip on Wall Street and edged down early in the session, while geopolitical tensions helped shore up crude oil prices.

Risk markets were wary of the U.S. central bank hinting at near-term interest rate hike which could divert some of the massive liquidity that has drenched global markets.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.3 percent.

U.S. stocks were modestly lower on Thursday, weighed down by a drop in healthcare and consumer companies.

“While it is possible that her comments will have a longer-term feel about them and could also be reasonably technical in nature, markets will be particularly interested if she follows on from some of her Fed colleagues that have signalled recently that markets are under-pricing potential upcoming Fed tightening,” wrote strategists at ANZ.

“Those comments haven’t really shifted market pricing, but if the boss was to signal it too, markets would likely listen.”

On Thursday Kansas City Fed President Esther George said it is time for the central bank to raise rates gradually and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan noted the Fed should be able to hike “in the not too distant future.”

Those comments were roughly in line with the hawkish views expressed by Fed policymakers including Vice Chair Stanley Fischer earlier in the week, adding to expectations that Yellen’s comments would be in a similar vein.

The dollar treaded water against its main peers ahead of Yellen’s speech. The U.S. currency was flat at 100.560 yen , having risen a modest 0.3 percent so far this week.

The euro was also little changed at $1.1286, on track to dip about 0.3 percent on the week.

The Australian dollar nudged up 0.1 percent to $0.7624 .

In commodities, U.S. crude oil inched up 2 cents to $47.35 a barrel after rising 56 cents, or 1 percent, on Thursday.

Oil prices were lifted overnight by U.S.-Iran military tensions in the Gulf and speculation the dollar would fall in response to Yellen’s policy speech.

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