HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed Monday following a broadly negative lead from Wall Street after the head of the US central bank said she was still concerned about employment in the country.
While Janet Yellen´s speech Friday said slackness in the jobs market would likely staunch inflation, investors noted her acknowledgement of calls for an early interest rate rise, which in turn lifted the dollar to a seven-month high against the yen.
Tokyo rose 0.20 percent by the break and Seoul put on 0.10 percent, but Hong Kong slipped 0.44 percent, Shanghai shed 0.28 percent and Sydney was 0.27 percent lower.
Speaking at the Fed´s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Yellen said even if unemployment has fallen more quickly than expected to 6.2 percent, there remains “considerable uncertainty about the level of employment”.
That signalled her commitment to the Fed´s timetable for hiking rates late next year, rather than earlier as some analysts and policy makers would like.
However, Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG Securities in Tokyo, told Dow Jones Newswires: “Her comments at Jackson Hole were balanced, and took into consideration the positions of the more hawkish members of the Fed.”
And Kathleen Brooks at Forex.com said dealers took account of the uncertainty surrounding labour market indicators Yellen mentioned in her speech. “The market seems to perceive this indecision to be a subtle shift away from the ultra-dovish stance Yellen has taken in the past,” she said.
Yellen´s comments pushed the dollar above 104 yen for the first time since April and to the strongest level since January.
In early Tokyo trade the greenback bought 104.14 yen compared with 103.87 yen in New York Friday.
But the Dow eased 0.22 percent and the S&P 500 shed 0.20 percent. The Nasdaq added 0.14 percent.
The euro was at $1.3204 and 137.51 yen, against $1.3241 and 137.60 yen.
On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October eased 21 cents to $93.44, while Brent crude for October fell 44 cents to $101.85.
Gold traded at $1,278.20 an ounce at 0230 GMT compared to $1,281.40 an ounce late Friday.