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Asia: Traders play wait-and-see ahead of Fed decision

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 11:18

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly ticked up on Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, with dealers hoping for forward guidance on its plans for interest rates this year.

Crude also recovered after a sharp two-day sell-off although there is a growing nervousness over talks between key producers about a possible output freeze aimed at addressing a global supply glut.

With few catalysts to drive trade, investors played it safe prior to the conclusion of the Fed meeting and a statement from chair Janet Yellen.

While no new measures are expected from the meeting, Yellen's comments will be pored over for an idea about policymakers' thinking after December's first interest rate hike in almost a decade.

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However, that rise was followed by two months of wild volatility across global markets that wiped trillions off valuations.

"We're waiting for US monetary policy, so it's difficult for investors to rush in and buy," Chihiro Ohta, general manager of investment information at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Bloomberg News.

"We need to see whether we'll have one or two rate hikes this year, and whether the next one will come in June." Hong Kong added 0.2 per cent, Shanghai put on 0.1 per cent and Seoul 0.3 per cent while Singapore added 0.3 per cent and Sydney was marginally higher.

However, Tokyo ended the morning session 0.4 per cent lower while the yen dipped a day after the Bank of Japan defended its negative interest rate policy and hinted at further measures aimed at kickstarting lending.

Oil prices rose after losing around five per cent on Monday and Tuesday as Iran - back on the scene after nuclear-linked sanctions were lifted - said it would not join an effort to freeze production until its own output reached 4.0 million barrels per day, about double its current level.

A meeting proposed by Russia and Saudi Arabia to discuss output limits has been pushed back to April from March 20, after signs some key producing nations do not support the move.

However, in morning trade US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up 1.4 per cent and Brent was up one percent.

AFP

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