Asian shares mixed as investors look ahead to rate decisions

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Asian shares were mixed Tuesday after a day of listless trading on Wall Street, as investors awaited signs on global interest rates.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added nearly 0.3% in afternoon trading to 21,379.45. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7% to 6,599.60, while South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.5% to 2,030.21. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was virtually unchanged, inching down less than 0.1% at 26,679.83, while the Shanghai Composite lost 0.3% to 3,015.25.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended virtually flat as losses in technology and health care stocks outweighed gains in financials and other sectors. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks, which has lagged the S&P 500 this year, outpaced the rest of the market.

Investors are taking a shine to smaller company stocks in hopes that they’ll be better shielded from the fallout of the costly trade war between the U.S. and China than large multinationals.

The S&P 500 inched 0.28 points lower, or less than 0.1%, to 2,978.43. The index, which has finished higher the past two weeks, is within 1.6% of its all-time high set in late July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.05 points, or 0.1%, to 26,835.51. The Nasdaq fell 15.64 points, or 0.2%, to 8,087.44. The Russell 2000 climbed 19.06 points, or 1.3%, to 1,524.23.

The broader market has bounced back the past two weeks following volatility brought on by the trade war as Washington and Beijing imposed new tariffs on more of each other’s imported goods. Investors worry the escalation of tariffs may be dampening global economic growth and threatening to nudge the United States into a recession.

Traders are hoping for a deal between the world’s two largest economies and were encouraged last week by news that talks will resume in October.

A mixed bag of economic data has also kept Wall Street focused on central banks and whether they will continue taking measures to shore up economic growth. On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank doesn’t expect a recession and will take necessary actions to maintain growth.

Economists expect the Fed to cut interest rates when it meets next week. Separately, the European Central Bank is expected to unveil new monetary stimulus measures on Thursday to help shore up the region’s economy.

“Markets look to be adrift ahead of the slew of events this week including the likes of the European Central Bank where further support for the markets is expected,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

“As far as the risk sentiment is concerned, the improvement carries forth from the previous week in anticipation of the various central bank meetings.”

ENERGY:

Benchmark crude oil rose 31 cents to $58.16 a barrel. It rose $1.33 to $57.85 a barrel Monday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 29 cents to $62.88 a barrel.

CURRENCIES:

The dollar rose to 107.37 Japanese yen from 106.96 yen on Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.1045 from $1.1037.

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