HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock benchmarks were mostly lower Thursday as investors digested an upbeat Fed assessment of the U.S. economy that raised the prospect of further rate hikes, while anticipating more stimulus from Japan.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.1 percent to 16,476.84 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2 percent to 2,020.86. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.3 percent to 22,154.82 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China slipped 0.2 percent to 2,985.66. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent to 5,558.40. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Thailand edged higher while in Indonesia and the Philippines they fell.
FED VIEW: While policymakers at the U.S. central bank voted to keep interest rates unchanged, they noted that “near-term risks” to the world’s biggest economy have diminished. The Fed said the U.S. job market has rebounded with signs that hiring is robust. It didn’t give a timetable for when it might resume raising rates but analysts said its latest statement revives that possibility.
JAPAN IN FOCUS: Investors are now hoping for fresh stimulus efforts from the Bank of Japan, which is expected to vote Friday on expanding monetary policy measures aimed at reviving sputtering growth in Asia’s second biggest economy. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced 28 trillion yen ($266 billion) in extra government spending to jumpstart growth, but details are uncertain.
QUOTEWORTHY: “All focus will be on the Bank of Japan on Friday and trading will be cautious heading into the event,” said Alex Furber of CMC Markets in Singapore.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended with little change. The Dow Jones industrial average fell less than 0.1 percent to 18,472.17 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.1 percent to 2,166.58. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.6 percent to 5,139.81.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 6 cents to $41.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1, or roughly 2.3 percent, to close at $41.92 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 5 cents to $43.96 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 104.66 yen from 105.15 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1087 from $1.1064.