Asia markets mostly lower before Yellen speech

Most Asian markets were lower Tuesday ahead of key U.S. data later this week, amid continued concern over whether the U.S. Federal Reserve might hike interest rates at its April meeting.

“Global risk appetite was held in check amid a quiet data calendar yesterday,” said analysts from Singapore’s OCBC Bank in a morning note Tuesday. “Market players are awaiting further cues from key U.S. non-farm payrolls and unemployment report this Friday [local time].”

The Japanese Nikkei 225 ended down 30.84 points, or 0.18 percent, at 17,103.53, while the Topix was off by 4.25 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,377.60. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi advanced by 12.37 points, or 0.62 percent, to 1,994.91. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index reversed losses to close up 20.69 points, or 0.1 percent, at 20,366.30.

Chinese markets ended lower, with the Shanghai composite off by 37.27 points, or 1.26 percent, at 2,920.54, while the Shenzhen composite fell 34.14 points, or 1.82 percent, to 1,840.50.

Australia’s ASX 200 closed down 79.69 points, or 1.57 percent, at 5,004.51 after being closed for the Easter holiday on Friday and Monday. The market was weighed by declines in the financials subindex.

Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia at Julius Baer, said in a morning note, “Until there is something more from the Fed, the markets will be in wait and see mode.”

U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen is due to speak at The Economic Club of New York on Tuesday local time. Her comments will follow remarks from a handful of Fed officials over the past week that a rate hike could be coming soon.

The OCBC analysts said markets will focus on Yellen’s speech and “it remains to be seen if she will echo the slightly hawkish tone emanating from other Fed speakers of late.”

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