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Asian Markets Mixed following U.S counterparts

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors react to recent comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Shares in Australia led gains among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia jumping 2.18%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also higher, with the Shanghai composite above the flatline while the Shenzhen component added 0.366%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was little changed.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.12%, adding on to losses following Tuesday’s decline of more than 2%.

Stocks in Japan were also lower in their first trading day of the week following holidays on Monday and Tuesday. The Nikkei 225 slipped 0.37% while the Topix index dipped 0.44%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index advanced 0.17%.

In a prepared testimony, the Fed’s Powell said the central bank remains committed to supporting the economy through its tools “for as long as it takes.” He also noted that “many economic indicators show marked improvement,” though the path forward “continues to be highly uncertain.”

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic could also weigh on investor sentiment, with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday reversing the lifting of some lockdown measures in England. That came following a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Cases in the U.S. have also started to trend upward following weeks of declines, though some health experts say it’s too early to tell whether the upward trend will continue. The virus has taken more than 200,000 lives in the country.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 94.187 following its rise earlier this week from levels below 93.5.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.07 per dollar following a weakening from levels around 104.4 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7125, having weakened from levels above $0.725 this week.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 0.6% to $41.47 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 0.75% to $39.50 per barrel.