International markets roundup

NEW YORK - Wall Street has opened with little changed as investors play a waiting game ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike.

Yellen's keynote speech will be the main focus of a meeting of global central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The meet, which starts Thursday, has traditionally been used by Fed chiefs as a platform to signal the direction of monetary policy.

Recent hawkish comments from some Fed officials, including Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, have raised expectations that Yellen might signal the possibility of a hike in September.

Wall Street has been on a record-setting run due to continued expectations for low rates, coupled with upbeat corporate earnings and strong economic data.

But, trading volumes have been below average in the past few sessions as the earnings season winds down and as traders avoid major bets ahead of a firmer handle on monetary policy.

"This is going to be a lacklustre drift upwards, with perhaps some stocks that have really run-up being the targets for some profit-taking," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

At 9:44 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 20.69 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 18,526.61.

The S&P 500 was down 1.87 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 2,185.03.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.05 points at 5,260.03.

LONDON - European shares rose, helped by a buoyant banking sector, while a disappointing update from British miner Glencore dragged the mining sector lower.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.4 per cent for its third straight session of gains.

Europe's Basic Resources index fell 1.4 per cent as copper prices hit two-month lows.

Italian lender UniCredit soared 8 percent, making it the top STOXX gainer, helped for a second day by talk it might soon sell its stake in Polish unit Pekao Bank.

Europe's STOXX 600 Bank was the biggest sectoral gainer, up two per cent.

Germany's DAX lifted 0.28 per cent to close at 10,622.97.

But London's FTSE 100 fell 0.48 per cent to close at 6,835.78, with the mining sector dragged down by a disappointing update from British miner Glencore.

Glencore declined three per cent after reporting a fall in underlying profit and lowering its debt target..

"At certain levels (Glencore) may look pretty attractive for entry for a buy. However ...after the rally that it's seen, this report doesn't really warrant a leg higher in the share price," Jonathan Roy, advisory investment manager at Charles Hanover Investments, said.

HONG KONG - Asian stock indices mainly succumbed to profit-taking after reaching one-year highs earlier this month.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.4 per cent, having risen more than 14 per cent since late June.

But Tokyo's Nikkei 225 bucked the trend, gaining 0.61 per cent to 16,597.3.

Hong Kong stocks posted their biggest one-day decline in three weeks on Wednesday. The Hang Seng index fell 0.8 per cent, to 22,820.78, while the China Enterprises Index also lost 0.8 per cent, to 9,507.09 points.

Shanghai lost 0.12 per cent, to 3,085.88.

Attention is turning to the meeting of global central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this week where the focus will lie squarely on a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday.

Investors will be hoping for further clues on when the Fed will follow up last December's rate hike with another increase. Futures markets assign a roughly one-in-five chance it will be September, and 50-50 odds by the end of the year.

"Seemingly in anticipation of a relatively hawkish message from Fed Chair Yellen at the forthcoming Jackson Hole Symposium, the dollar is making modest gains," RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a client note on Wednesday.

"But other markets are more circumspect about the prospect of Yellen signalling a tougher stance on monetary policy."

WELLINGTON - The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 57.03 points, or 0.8 per cent, from a record high to 7410.30.

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