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Asia stocks track Wall St lower, dollar buoyant; Powell in focus

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By Reuters
Asia stocks track Wall St lower, dollar buoyant; Powell in focus
FILE PHOTO: Men look at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Beijing, China, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo   -   Copyright  Kim Kyung Hoon(Reuters)

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks tracked Wall Street losses and edged down in early trade on Friday, but the dollar was buoyant after ending a long losing run ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> shed 0.18 percent.

Australian stocks <.AXJO> rose 0.16 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI <.KS11> fell 0.35 percent and Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> climbed 0.35 percent.

The S&P 500 <.SPX> shed 0.17 percent overnight to pull back slightly from a record high scaled midweek, with industrial shares sagging after the United States and China imposed a fresh round of trade tariffs on each other.

Shares of industrial giants Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N> and Boeing Co <BA.N>, which have been bellwethers of trade sentiment, were among the biggest drags on the Dow <.DJI>, which lost about 0.3 percent. Caterpillar shares fell 2.0 percent, and Boeing shares fell 0.7 percent.

In immediate focus was the speech by Fed’s Powell to be given later on Friday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, meeting of central bankers.

How Powell stands on the pace of interest rate hikes will be scrutinised after the minutes from the most recent policy meeting indicated the Fed would tighten monetary policy soon.

“For equities, the key point will be whether Powell indicates that the Fed is poised to hike rates two more times this year. That would fall in line with expectations and not cause much of a stir,” said Soichiro Monji, senior economist at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo.

“Any mention of recent turbulence in the emerging markets may also provide the risk asset markets with some relief.”

U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated his displeasure with the Fed’s rate hikes earlier this week and investors waited to see whether Powell would respond to such criticism.

The Fed should raise rates further this year and probably next year as well, despite Trump’s displeasure at tighter policy, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said in interviews aired on Thursday.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan also said Trump’s comments would not affect the central bank’s decision making.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 95.663 <.DXY>, holding its gains after rising 0.55 percent overnight to snap a six-day losing run.

The greenback extended its overnight surge to touch a two-week high of 111.41 yen <JPY=>. The euro was steady at $1.1538 <EUR=> after retreating 0.5 percent the previous day.

The Australian dollar dipped 0.1 percent to $0.7241 <AUD=D4>. It had slumped 1.4 percent overnight as political uncertainty mounted in Australia after several senior ministersresigned and put Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership back in play.

Oil prices stabilised, with a big draw in U.S. crude inventories neutralised by lingering trade war concerns. [O/R]

Brent crude futures were flat at $74.73 per barrel <LCOc1>, while U.S. crude <CLc1> inched down a cent to $67.82.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer)