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Asia stocks mixed as dollar hits 15-month low

Asia Pacific stocks had a mixed start to the week as the US dollar remained weak following the absence of monetary policy clues in Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole, while gasoline prices spiked after Hurricane Harvey shut down refineries in Texas.

Harvey, which weakened to a Category 1 tropical storm after making landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, on Friday night brought flooding to Houston, the capital of the US oil and gas industry. The storm shut down 900,000 barrels per day of oil refining capacity on Saturday and 430,000 barrels per day of oil production was shut off in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nymex September gasoline futures were up 5.8 per cent at $1.7625 a gallon. Brent Crude, the international benchmark, was up 0.3 per cent at $52.57 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, was 0.3 per cent lower at $47.71 a barrel.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng broke through the 28,000 point level for the first time in more than two years as the financials sector rose 1 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.4 per cent.

Japan’s Topix was flat as financials fell 0.6 per cent and the Japanese yen strengthened further against the dollar.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6 per cent, weighed by financials as the Australian banking regulator ordered an independent inquiry into Commonwealth Bank of Australia following a raft of scandals. CBA’s stock was down 1.23 per cent following the announcement that an investigation would focus on governance, culture and accountability frameworks at the bank.

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback against six peers, was down 0.3 per cent at 92.486, its lowest level since May 3, 2016. The dollar index fell on Friday after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s remarks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offered little fresh information on the outlook for monetary policy.

The euro was hovering at its highest level against the dollar since January 2015 after jumping 1 per cent against the greenback on Friday following European Central Bank chairman’s Mario Draghi failure to “talk down” the euro during his own speech at Jackson Hole.