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posted: 8/29/2012 6:47 AM

Asia stocks edge up ahead of Fed chief's speech

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  • A man walks in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo.

    A man walks in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea -- Asian markets were mostly higher early Wednesday, as investors bet that the mixed economic data from the U.S. would prompt the Federal Reserve to take more steps to spur economic growth.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei rose 0.3 percent to 9,061.67 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent to 1928.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was marginally lower at 19,801.27. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.1 percent to 4,354.80.

Benchmarks in Singapore and Taiwan also rose, while Indonesia, mainland China and Malaysia fell.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver a key speech Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that investors will watch carefully for clues about the central bank's intentions to try to speed up the U.S. economic recovery.

Analysts said global stock markets are expected to continue light trading as investors are fixated on the results of the Friday meeting.

"Both hopes and concerns co-exist among investors before the Jackson Hole meeting," said Jun Ji-won, a market analyst at Seoul-based Kiwoom Securities. "There are no significant changes in the key indices until the speech gives directions to the market. Stocks are moving by sectors."

In South Korea, tech exporters staged a rally led by Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest technology company by revenues. Samsung rose 2 percent, as investors shrugged off shock from Apple's decisive patent victory in the U.S. last week that sent Samsung shares 7.5 percent lower on Monday.

Samsung vowed to appeal all the way to the highest court in the U.S., while Apple asked the court to block eight Samsung products in the U.S. for patent infringement. Samsung's smaller rival LG Electronics Inc. rose 4 percent while Japan's Sony Corp. jumped 3.2 percent in Japan.

A report showed Tuesday that U.S. house prices increased in all major U.S. cities in June, the latest sign that the housing market has been rebounding.

But on the downside, consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level since November 2011. The Conference Board said consumer confidence index fell to 60.6, down from 65.4 in July. Economists had expected a reading of 66.

The results show that Americans are still worried about the economy despite a slight rise in job growth. Analysts believe that weak consumer sentiment might spur the Fed to take more action.

In China, government data showed that profits at China's industrial companies plunged in July for the fourth straight month, adding pressure on Beijing to step up spending to offset private sector weakness.

On Tuesday, Wall Street closed mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average retreated 0.2 percent to 13,102.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped marginally to 1,409.30 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 0.1 percent to 3,077.14.

Benchmark oil for October delivery fell 28 cents to $96.06 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents to finish at $96.33 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell marginally to $1.2562 from $1.2564 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 78.57 yen from 78.53 yen.

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