Asian shares mostly higher as focus turns to central bankers

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TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday after a mixed finish on Wall Street. Investors were turning their focus to policy meetings by central bank boards in Japan and the EU.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index edged 0.1 percent higher to 20,021.49 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.5 percent to 26,648.35. The S&P ASX 200 in Australia jumped 0.6 percent to 5,720.90 while the Shanghai Composite index added 0.5 percent to 3,204.33. South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.2 percent to 2,422.07. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

WALL STREET: The reaction to the failure of a Senate Republican health care proposal was muted. After four months of struggles over health care, investors don't expect as much from Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump on other issues. Insurers lost ground but gains in tech and consumer stocks pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite to new highs. The S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent to 2,460.61, just above the record it set Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 0.3 percent to 21,574.73, while the Nasdaq composite advanced 0.5 percent to 6,344.31 as tech companies like Facebook and Alphabet, the parent of Google, rose.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The failure in the Senate to modify Obamacare followed immediately by a failure to cancel it outright are but the latest miscues suggesting a 4-year lame duck presidency. Reform, deregulation and fiscal stimulus that excited markets seven months ago are becoming evermore distant memories and expectations for GDP growth and Fed action are falling accordingly," DBS Bank (Hong Kong) said in a commentary.

CENTRAL BANKS: European Central Bank head Mario Draghi is expected to tread softly on Thursday as the European Union's 19-country euro currency union monetary authority inches toward scaling back its monetary stimulus in the form of 60 billion euros ($69 billion) in monthly bond purchases. Japan's central bank, likewise, is not expected to make any drastic moves, given recent subdued data on inflation and consumer sentiment.

CURRENCIES: The dollar, which has steadily lost ground most of this year, was trading at 112.00 yen on Wednesday, down from 112.07 late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1544 from $1.1543. It hasn't been this strong compared to the dollar since early 2015.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added lost 5 cents to $46.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 38 cents to $46.40 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 6 cents to $48.78 per barrel. It rose 42 cents to $48.84 a barrel in London.

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