Chinese banks post strong profits

<p>Asian stocks were mixed ahead of a key speech by US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke overnight. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.2% in […]</p>

Asian stocks were mixed ahead of a key speech by US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke overnight. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.2% in afternoon Tokyo trading, after losing as much as 0.2%. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures climbed 0.4% ahead of the Bernanke speech. About seven shares declined for every five that gained on MSCI’s Asia Pacific Index. The gauge has climbed 0.2% this week – ending a four-week 14% losing streak.

Compounding uncertainty was a decision by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan advising of his resignation, 14 months into his term. Kan, 64, told members of the Democratic Party of Japan at a meeting today that he is stepping down. The DPJ will select his replacement Aug. 29 in a race between former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara against finance chief Yoshihiko Noda, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano and three others.

In economic news, the Australian dollar rose against 15 of its 16 most- actively traded peers after Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said inflation data is still concerning, easing speculation the central bank will cut interest rates. The statement comes as China, Singapore, South Korea and India all struggle to contain regional inflationary pressures.

In a further sign of confidence in the region, China’s five biggest banks posted first-half profits that surpassed the total of their 14 largest U.S. and European rivals, highlighting the Asian nation’s financial power as other economies falter. Shares of Beijing-based ICBC climbed 2.7% to HK$4.98% in early morning trade, making it the best performer on the Hang Seng Index today. Agricultural Bank, which yesterday said profit climbed 45%, fell 0.5% to HK$3.81.

In energy markets, oil for October delivery slipped as much as 0.6% to US$84.83 a barrel on the NYMEX, before trading at US$85.01. Prices are 3.4% higher this week and up 16% in the past year. The US growth outlook is key to oil prices. In metals, gold for immediate delivery was little changed at US$1,778.07 an ounce. Prices earlier dropped as much as 0.9% to US$1,757.80 an ounce and are down 4.2% this week. Copper for three-month delivery fell 0.6% to US$8,979.75 a metric ton in London.


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