A woman walks past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a bank in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Asian markets climbed higher on Wednesday as a sweep of positive news from Wall Street and beyond boosted confidence in the U.S. economy. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Asian stocks ease after rallying on solid US performance

July 18, 2018 - 2:49 am

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets have eased after early gains as a sweep of positive news from Wall Street and beyond boosted confidence in the U.S. economy.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.4 percent to 22,794.19. The index had rallied 1 percent in early Wednesday trading. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 2,288.67, after the country's government dramatically cut its outlook on the job market and slightly lowered its growth forecast. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 28,093.95 and the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.2 percent to 2,792.28. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.6 percent to 6,241.20. Shares rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

WALL STREET: U.S indexes rebounded after a weak start on solid gains for retailers, technology and household goods companies. Prescription drug business Johnson & Johnson and financial services company Charles Schwab posted bullish earnings, adding to the largely positive corporate earnings season. The S&P 500 index rose 0.4 percent to 2,809.55. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2 percent to 25,119.89. The Nasdaq composite jumped 0.6 percent to 7,855.12, surpassing the record high it set last week. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 0.5 percent to 1,687.26.

UPBEAT FED COMMENT: Delivering his twice-a-year report on monetary policy to Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he expects the job market to remain robust and inflation to hover around the Fed's 2 percent target for the next few years. Stocks have fallen after Powell's previous major addresses, but not on Tuesday.

U.S. INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION: The Fed said U.S. industrial production, including output at factories, mines and utilities, climbed 0.6 percent in June. It fell 0.5 percent in May after a fire disrupted production of Ford Motor's F-series pickup trucks, America's bestselling vehicle. U.S. manufacturing still looks healthy despite trade conflicts with China, Europe and Canada and a rising dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive abroad.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "While earnings and the highly-watched testimony to Senate by Fed chair Powell played a part, movements remained largely muted with the likes of the Dow and the S&P 500 index clocking only moderate gains overnight," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 52 cents to $67.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract was relatively unchanged at $68.08 in New York on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 42 cents to $71.74 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.03 yen from 112.83 yen late Tuesday. The euro eased to $1.1631 from $1.1664.

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