Asian markets were trading mixed Wednesday ahead of Fed Chair Jerome Powell's highly anticipated speech later in the week.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5% to finish at 32,010.26. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4% to 7,148.40. South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5% to 2,503.28. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4% to 17,861.58, while the Shanghai Composite dropped 1.0% to 3,090.68.
Powell is set to speak Friday at an event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the site of several major policy announcements by the Fed. The Fed has already hiked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001 in hopes of grinding high inflation down to a 2% target. High rates work by slowing the entire economy bluntly and hurting prices for investments.
Inflation has come down considerably from its peak above 9% in summer 2022, but economists say getting the last percentage point of improvement may be the most difficult.
The hope among traders is that Powell would indicate the Fed is done hiking interest rates for this cycle and that it could begin cutting them next year. But strong reports on the economy recently have hurt such hopes. A solid job market and spending by US households could be feeding more fuel into pressures that push upward on inflation.
Robert Carnell, ING's head of research for the Asia-Pacific region, noted attention is also on what the People's Bank of China might do next on monetary policy. Earlier this month, the central bank unexpectedly cut a key interest rate in a sign of growing official urgency about shoring up economic growth.
"The tug of war between markets and the PBoC will remain a focus in Asia today," he said.
Analysts say trading in Asia remains subdued as investors are also waiting for US chipmaker Nvidia's earnings report later in the day. Nvidia, one of Wall Street's most influential stocks, swung from an early gain to a loss of 2.8% Tuesday.
Nvidia has been at the center of Wall Street's frenzy around artificial-intelligence technology, which investors believe will create immense profits for companies. Nvidia's stock has already more than tripled this year, and it likely faces a high a bar to justify the huge move.
Analysts expect Nvidia to say on Wednesday that its revenue swelled by nearly $4.5 billion to $11.19 billion during the spring from a year earlier.
Wall Street finished mostly lower, with the S&P 500 slipping 0.3% to 4,387.55 to give back some of its rare August gain from a day before, which was powered by Big Tech stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5% to 34,288.83, and the Nasdaq composite edged up 0.1% to 13,505.87.
In the bond market, the 10-year Treasury yield ticked down to 4.32% from 4.34%. It's the center of the bond market and helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.
The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for the Federal Reserve, rose to 5.04% from 5.00%.
In energy trading, US benchmark crude fell 37 cents to $80.35 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, stood unchanged at $84.03 a barrel.
In currency trading, the US dollar edged down to 145.63 Japanese yen from 145.85 yen. The euro cost $1.0859, up from $1.0848.