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Asian stocks lacklustre as Yellen speech reverberates, US economic data awaited

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BEIJING, China - Asian stock markets were lacklustre Tuesday as investors continued to digest monetary policy signals from the Jackson Hole meeting of central bankers and looked ahead to data expected to show an improving U.S. economy.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was off 0.4 per cent at 15,553.42 and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.1 per cent to 2,226.98. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.1 per cent at 25,136.50. Seoul's Kospi added 0.5 per cent to 2,071.24 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was little changed at 5,632.40.

DOLLAR BOOST: The U.S. dollar has risen against major currencies since Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's speech to the Jackson Hole, Wyoming conference Friday was seized upon by traders as suggesting the Fed is inching toward interest rate hikes because of faster-than-expected improvement in employment. The dollar's strength was reinforced by comments from Japanese and European central bankers which suggested their economies will remain on life-support for longer than the U.S.

U.S. OUTLOOK: Investors looked ahead to Tuesday's data on durable goods orders, followed by economic growth on Thursday. Durable goods spending is expected to rise as much as 18 per cent over the previous month, driven by a surge in aircraft sales by Boeing Co. That could help to shore up sentiment after new home sales fell 2.4 per cent last month, suggesting a construction recovery was struggling.

ANALYST TAKE: "We expect this week's U.S. growth numbers to be mixed but positive," said Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics in a report.

UKRAINE TENSIONS: The presidents of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were due to meet Tuesday in Minsk, Belarus, in a possible step toward trying to reach a negotiated end to unrest in Ukraine. Tension over an insurgency by pro-Russian forces has roiled energy markets, which worried about the impact of possible Western sanctions on Russian oil exports.

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market notched another first on Monday after the Standard & Poor's 500 nudged briefly past the 2,000-point mark and closed with its second record high in a week. The S&P 500 added 9.52 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,997.92. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.65 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,076.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 18.80 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,557.35.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was up 16 cents to $93.51 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract declined 30 cents on Monday to close at $93.35.

CURRENCIES: Major currencies stabilized after losing ground to the dollar. The euro rose to $1.3204 from the previous session's $1.3181. The dollar declined to 103.91 yen from Monday's close of 104.09 yen.

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