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Asian shares mixed following Wall St retreat

TOKYO

Major Asian share indexes meandered between modest gains and losses Tuesday after a retreat on Wall Street.

Australia’s benchmark led the declines, falling nearly 2% as the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to keep interest rates at record lows, as expected.

The Japanese government reported that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July stood at 2.9%, little changed from recent months.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index was flat to finish at 23,138.07 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was little changed at 25,168.27. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.8% to 2,344.48. The Shanghai Composite index inched less than 0.1% lower to 3,394.25. The S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.8% to 5,953.40.

Leaders of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party were negotiating over who will replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after he steps down.

Abe announced Friday he would resign due to health problems. The expectation is that his successor will continue the “Abenomics” policies he launched in early 2013, aimed at spurring growth through massive central bank stimulus and cheap credit.

While those policies have not yielded the stronger, sustained growth Abe promised for the world’s third largest economy, until late last year Japan had mostly maintained what officials called a “modest recovery.”

In late 2019, after a sales tax hike and shocks to export demand from the trade war between the U.S. and China, the economy slipped into recession. This year it has been battered by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns to control it.

Overnight, Wall Street ended August with its fifth monthly gain in a row.

The benchmark S&P 500 fell 0.2% to 3,500.31. It finished the month with a 7% gain, making it the S&P 500′s best August since 1986. It’s now up 8.3% this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8% to 28,430.05.

The Nasdaq rose 0.7% to 11,775.46. Heavily weighted with tech stocks, it has led the market’s rebound this year. It finished August with a 9.6% gain and is up 31.2% for the year.

The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks fell 1%, to 1,561.88.

The market’s latest strong monthly finish extends a remarkable comeback for Wall Street since the coronavirus pandemic knocked financial markets into a steep skid and the global economy into recession.

Encouraging economic data as broad swaths of economies reopened this summer have helped stoke investor optimism about a recovery. The question is whether that’s going to be enough to keep markets moving higher when so much uncertainty remains about the pandemic’s lasting impact on companies and consumers.

Monday was the first day of trading in the Dow since the 30-company average had its lineup of companies revamped. Salesforce.com, Amgen and Honeywell International are replacing Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Raytheon Technologies. The shuffle was triggered by a 4-for-1 stock split in Dow member Apple. Tesla also had a 5-for-1 stock split that took effect Monday. Apple was up 3.4%, while Tesla vaulted 12.6%.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil added 42 cents to $43.03 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 36 cents to $42.61 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 48 cents to $45.76 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar edged down to 105.74 Japanese yen from 105.94 yen. The euro cost $1.1982, up from $1.1940.

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