Japanese stocks edged down on Thursday as appetite for risk was checked by weakness on Wall Street and caution ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday, an event global markets hope will provide clues on the outlook for U.S. rates.
The benchmark Nikkei shed 0.2 percent to 16,562.49 in midmorning trade.
Fed officials including Vice Chair Stanley Fischer and New York Fed President William Dudley have expressed upbeat views on the economy in the past week, indicating a rate increase this year is likely and could come as soon as the September meeting.
Investors are now looking to Yellen’s speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday for insight on the U.S. monetary policy outlook.
The Nikkei benchmark index has traded in a narrow 16,452.01-16,714.61 range over the past week, and could move back toward the 16,500-level depending on Yellen’s remarks, traders say.
“The market is cautiously focused on whether Yellen adopts a hawkish or dovish tone,” said Michiro Naito, executive director of equity derivatives at JPMorgan. “As Japan’s recent monetary policy and fiscal policy changes have failed to meet market expectations, people expect the U.S. economic outlook to be the main catalysts for Japanese stocks for now.”
On Thursday, weak oil prices dragged on mining shares. Inpex Corp dropped 1.3 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co shed 1.0 percent.
On the positive ledger, airline companies, which benefit from cheap oil prices, outperfomed. ANA Holdings rose 0.8 percent and Japan Airlines gained 1.8 percent.
Taking a sharp downward move, Recruit Holdings Co tumbled more than 7 percent after the recruiting giant said its shareholders would sell up to 267 billion yen worth of its shares based on Wednesday’s closing price, to diversify its shareholder base.
The broader Topix dropped 0.3 percent to 1,302.68 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.3 percent to 11,706.69.