Asian markets mixed following Wall Street gains

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Asian markets mixed following Wall Street gains
A woman walks past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Monday, March 19, 2018. Asian stock markets were mixed Monday following Wall Street’s gain and China’s appointment of a new central bank governor and other top economic officials. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Monday following Wall Street’s gain and China’s appointment of a new central bank governor and other top economic officials.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 percent to 3,275.37 while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 shed 1.1 percent to 21,435.90. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent higher to 31,525.87 and Seoul’s Kospi fell 0.9 percent to 2,473.02. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,963.70 while Taiwan also rose. Benchmarks in New Zealand and Southeast Asia declined.

WALL STREET: Energy companies, industrial firms and smaller companies gained, helping the market break a losing streak. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.2 percent to 2,752.01. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.3 percent to 24,946.51. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.25 points to 7,481.99.

CHINA’S NEW FACES: A U.S.-trained economist was named to succeed longtime Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan as part of a slate of new economic officials. The appointments come as Beijing is trying to rein in surging debt and reduce financial risk. The new governor of the People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, is a veteran deputy central banker who is known to foreign investors and regulators as head of China’s foreign exchange regulator. The ceremonial national legislature also approved a second term for the commerce minister and appointed a finance minister.

FED WATCH: Investors are closely watching this week’s first meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee under newly appointed Fed chairman Jerome Powell. The potential for insight into how the new Fed leadership will operate makes this “arguably one of the most important policy setting meetings in recent years,” said Tai Hui of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in a report. Forecasters already expect a 0.25 percentage point increase in the Fed’s benchmark interest rate but want to know its economic outlook, which will influence future decisions. “The committee’s assessment on the U.S. economy and subsequent policy outlook is going to be crucial,” said Hui.

RUSSIAN ELECTION: President Vladimir Putin rolled to a crushing re-election victory. There had been no doubt that Putin would win his fourth election against seven minor candidates after his most prominent foe was blocked from the ballot. With ballots from 80 percent of Russia’s precincts counted by early Monday, Putin had amassed 76 percent of the vote. Observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the claims are unlikely to dilute the power of Russia’s longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin. As the embodiment of Russia’s resurgent power on the world stage, Putin commands immense loyalty among Russians.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 36 cents to .98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped .15 on Friday to close at .34. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 39 cents to .82 per barrel in London. It climbed .09 on Friday to .21.

CURRENCY: The dollar edged down to 105.72 yen from Friday’s 105.98 yen. The euro declined to .2267 from .2291.