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Stock market today: Asian shares are mixed after Fed chair's comments give scant clues on rate cuts

Shares were mixed Wednesday in Asia after remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in front of Congress did little to change investors' expectations for the timing of a Fed interest rate cut.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index touched a fresh intraday trading high but fell back, edging 0.1% lower to 41,536.10 by midday.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.4% to 17,587.16, while the Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.3% to 2,949.60.

China reported that its consumer price index slipped to 0.2% in June from 0.3% in May, below expectations largely due to declines in prices for foods other than pork.

“Weak consumer confidence continues to drive consumption in the direction of seeking better value-for-money purchases, and competition in the EV sector continues to drive prices down, suppressing overall inflation,” Lynn Song of ING Economics said in a commentary.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.3% lower, at 7,806.30.

In Seoul, the Kospi fell 0.2% to 2,862.89. Taiwan's Taiex and India's Sensex both were up 0.2%.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite each rose 0.1%, enough to bump up the indexes to all-time highs for the second time this week.

All told, the S&P 500 rose 4.13 points to 5,576.98. The Nasdaq added 25.55 points to close at 18,429.29. The Dow fell 0.1% to 39,291.97.

Stocks have been gaining ground steadily over the last several months and that has helped push the S&P 500 to 36 records so far this year.

In his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell reiterated that inflation has eased notably in the past two years, though it remains above the central bank's 2% target. He also noted that there's a risk in the Fed moving to cut interest rates too late or too little, warning either scenario could end up weaking the economy and job market.

Powell is scheduled to testify later Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee. His testimony comes ahead of the new inflation updates later this week.

Traders are still betting that there’s a 70% chance that the central bank will cut its main interest rate as soon as September, according to data from CME Group.

Treasury yields rose slightly in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 4.30% from 4.28% late Monday.

The Fed has remained cautious about making a move on interest rates, holding its benchmark interest rate at its highest level in more than two decades as it waits cautiously for more signals that inflation is still cooling.

While prices have eased sharply over the last two years as the Fed raised interest rates, the central bank's goal is to cool inflation back to its target of 2% without slowing economic growth too much.

The rate is hovering around 3% and continues exerting pressure on consumers, especially those with lower incomes.

Gains in banks helped outweigh a pullback in industrials, energy and other sectors in the S&P 500 index Tuesday. JPMorgan Chase rose 1.2% and Bank of America added 2%.

Chipmaker Intel rose another 1.8% following Monday’s 6.2% gain as bullish analysts suggest the company’s next processors will be in high demand for AI-related products.

Consumer goods company Helen of Troy, which makes Osprey and OXO products, sank 27.7% after posting first-quarter results that fell far short of forecasts.

Wall Street expects a report on Thursday to show consumer prices eased to 3.1% in June from 3.3% in May. A report for inflation at the wholesale level, before costs are passed on to consumers, is expected Friday.

Traders are also looking ahead to several earnings reports this week. Delta Air Lines will report its results on Thursday.

JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will report results on Friday. Those updates could provide more insight into consumer debt levels and whether banks are worried about payments and potential delinquencies.

In other dealings early Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil fell 14 cents to $81.27 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 22 cents to $84.44 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 161.46 Japanese yen from 161.34 yen. The euro climbed to $1.0822 from $1.0813.

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AP Business Writers Stan Choe and Damian J. Troise and Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber contributed.

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