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Asia shares mixed ahead of Fed meeting

Nikkei 225

Nikkei 225 edged up around 0.1 percent to 29,948.69, Kospi shed 0.8 percent to 3,041.72, S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.8 per cent to 6,772.60, while Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 29,057.59

Shares in Asia were mixed Wednesday ahead of the US central bank’s latest comments on the economic outlook.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up around 0.1 percent to 29,948.69. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.8 percent to 3,041.72. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.8 per cent to 6,772.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 29,057.59, while the Shanghai Composite was little changed, recouping early losses, advancing less than 0.1 percent to 3,448.53.

Investors are awaiting the Federal Reserve’s latest economic and interest rate projections, expected later during the day. Economists expect Fed Chair Jerome Powell will try to convince financial markets that the central bank can continue providing support without sparking higher inflation.

Those worries have recently pushed bond yields higher, sapping buying demand for shares. The Fed meeting “carries the potential to either allay or heighten some of the market’s recent concern about the soaring bond yields,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Wall Street capped a choppy day of trading as indexes closed mostly lower. Losses by banks, industrial stocks, and companies that rely on consumer spending, including cruise line operators, outweighed gains by Big Tech and communication services stocks. The S&P 500 declined 0.2 percent to 3,962.71. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.4 percent to 32,825.95. The Nasdaq bucked rose 0.1 percent, to 13,471.57. Big tech that surged in 2020 were among the gainers. Apple rose 1.6 percent; Alphabet advanced 1.4 percent and Facebook added 2 percent.

We’re still in the midst of getting back to a more normal environment, said Jason Pride, a chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede. Given the lumpiness of government stimulus payments, we’re going to see numbers jumping around.

Investors are betting big that this economic malaise will dissipate as spring arrives and more Americans get vaccinated. Moreover, President Joe Biden’s administration started sending out USD 1,400 stimulus checks to individuals last weekend.

In energy trading, US benchmark crude dropped 9 cents to USD 64.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed 59 cents to USD 64.80 on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, declined 15 cents to USD 68.24 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar advanced to 109.12 Japanese yen from 108.99 yen. The euro rose from USD 1.1903, at USD 1.1906.

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