Asia shares drift on Wall St retreat; ECB meeting in focus

HONG KONG — Asian shares were drifting Thursday as Wall Street's retreat from recent record highs and a widely awaited European Central Bank meeting gave investors reason to pause.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged 0.2 percent higher to 21,740.97 while South Korea's Kospi was flat at 2,492.42. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent to 28,270.70 but the Shanghai Composite in mainland China crept 0.2 percent higher to 3,403.87. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 5,898.60.

ECB: The European Central Bank's policy meeting, where it's expected to sketch out a plan to exit its extraordinary stimulus program, is shaping up to be the day's big market moving event. The euro was rising as investors awaited ECB chief Mario Draghi's blueprint on phasing out its 60 billion euro ($71 billion) monthly bond purchase program, with attention focused on whether it's going to be withdrawn more quickly or slowly than expected.

QUOTE: "About the only thing that matters today is what Mario Draghi says at the ECB press conference later today," said Rob Carnell, ING's head of Asian research.

FED SHORTLIST: Anticipation is building for President Donald Trump's decision on who should lead the Federal Reserve once current Chair Janet Yellen's term expires in February. His choice is expected before he leaves for an Asia trip on Nov. 3. In a TV interview, he praised Yellen but also acknowledged his conflicting desire to make his own mark. Among the four other candidates, Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is now seen as out of the running.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks lost ground as a string of poor earnings reports hit investor sentiment. The S&P 500 shed 0.5 percent to 2,557.15. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to 23,329.46. The Nasdaq composite sank 0.5 percent to 6,563.89.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.46 yen from 113.75 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro edged up to $1.1829 from $1.1813.

ENERGY: Oil futures fell. Benchmark U.S. crude shed 9 cents to $52.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 29 cents to settle at $52.18 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, sank 10 cents to $58.34 per barrel in London.

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