Asian shares were mostly lower on Wednesday on rising oil prices and lackluster Japanese data.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent to 24,110.96. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.2 percent to 27,064.67 after closing at a two-week low on Tuesday. Australia‘s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 6,146.10. Stocks fell in Taiwan and Indonesia but rose in Singapore. Markets in South Korea and the Chinese mainland were closed for a national holiday.
JAPAN SERVICES PMI: Japan’s services industry grew at its slowest pace in two years in September, a private survey showed Wednesday. The Markit/Nikkei Japan services purchasing managers index came in at 50.2 in September, down from 51.5 in the previous month. Readings above 50 indicate expansion on the index’s 100-point scale.
ENERGY: Oil futures soared and reached four-year highs before easing on Tuesday. Benchmark U.S. crude recovered on Wednesday, adding 9 cents to $75.32 a barrel. The contract had closed at $75.23 in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 13 cents to $84.93 per barrel. It slipped 0.2 percent to $84.80 per barrel in London.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “The market is probably spooked by the still rising oil prices. Some of the net oil-importing emerging markets will be at higher risks,” said Francis Tan, investment strategist at UOB Private Bank. The Indonesia rupiah, for instance, has hit a 20-year-low of 15,075 against the dollar, he added.
NORTH AMERICAN DEAL: The North American trade agreement hammered out late Sunday between the United States and Canada following an earlier U.S.-Mexico deal will shake up — but likely won’t revolutionize — the way businesses operate within the three-country trade bloc. Separately, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the U.S. has never experienced such an extended period of low, stable inflation and very low unemployment since 1950. Powell maintained the Fed’s economic forecast and said he sees no need to drop the central bank’s current gradual approach to raising interest rates.
WALL STREET: Most indexes closed lower as retailers sank after Amazon said it will raise hourly wages for U.S. employees. But gains by several big industrial companies like Boeing, 3M and Caterpillar pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record high. The Dow added 0.5 percent to 26,773.94. The S&P 500 index dropped less than 0.1 percent to 2,923.43, and the Nasdaq composite gave up 0.5 percent to 7,999.55. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks tumbled 1.4 percent to 1,672.99, its worst loss since late June.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to $113.81 from 113.69. The euro strengthened to $1.1588 from $1.1545.