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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian stocks edge lower after Wall Street dips in month-end trade

NEW YORK, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Asian stocks were set to weaken on Tuesday following a softer Wall Street close while the dollar slipped as markets digested new Federal Reserve comments that suggested rates will stay low for an extended period.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 .AXJO lost 0.89% in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 .N225 fell 0.22%,

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures .HSI HSIc1 lost 0.38%.

Wall Street declines overnight were caused by month-end portfolio rebalancing "rather than a new trend in equities," said Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at NAB Market Research in Sydney.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 ended in the red, while the Nasdaq rose solidly. The S&P gained more than 7% for the month to notch its best August since 1986 in what is traditionally a softer month for stock performance.

"After such a strong summer run we're reverting back to the old pandemic playbook, so we see tech outperforming," said Mona Mahajan, senior U.S. investment strategist at Allianz (DE:ALVG) Global Investors in New York. "Really, that's a defensive move as people think about stay-at-home more as we're heading toward that fall season."

Investors in Asia await the release of China manufacturing data and an interest rate decision from the Australian central bank. While the Reserve Bank of Australia is not expected to change policy, its commentary on the economic outlook will be closely watched.

Most stocks slid overnight, but chalked up another month of gains for August. U.S. tech shares rose again Monday, powered by stock splits that lifted Apple Inc AAPL.O and Tesla Inc TSLA.O .

Providing some support to sentiment was AstraZeneca's AZN.L plan to enroll 30,000 participants in a late-stage study to evaluate its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222. Vaccine news often lifts markets. stocks could see a boost after the U.S. said on Monday it was establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue with the country, an initiative it said was designed to support Taipei.

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida on Monday expanded on Governor Jerome Powell's comments from last week, saying that under the U.S. central bank's new policy view, a low rate of unemployment does not on its own trigger higher interest rates.

Last week, the Fed said its new strategy plan is to use higher inflation when the economy is robust to offset the impact of periods of weaker prices. Nasdaq fared even better than the S&P for the month, up nearly 10% as it rallied for a fifth straight month.

Monday marked the first trading day for the revamped Dow, with (NYSE:CRM) CRM.N , Amgen Inc AMGN.O and Honeywell International Inc (NYSE:HON) HON.N joining the 30-component index, replacing Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM) XOM.N , Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) PFE.N and Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) Technologies Corp RTX.N . Honeywell ended the session lower while a move higher late in the day pushed Salesforce and Amgen into positive territory. Asia, China's Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers' index

Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 0.79%, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.23%, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 0.68%.

The dollar edged lower against a basket of major currencies early on Tuesday. The dollar index =USD fell 0.08%, with the euro EUR= up 0.02% to $1.1938.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.04% versus the greenback at 105.86 per dollar, while Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.3364, down 0.04% on the day.

Expectations that the Fed will keep interest rates low for an extended period kept the dollar soft, marking a fourth straight month of declines, its longest losing streak since 2017.

Reference by: Alwyn Scott