Asia: Markets mixed, eyes on Fed meeting

[HONG KONG] Asian markets were mixed Tuesday ahead of the US Federal Reserve's next policy meeting, which will be scrutinised for an idea of what its plans are for interest rates.

Wall Street provided little direction as investors took a breather after last week's strong performance across all three main indexes.

Tokyo was down 0.76 per cent by the break, Sydney shed 0.42 per cent and Seoul lost 0.33 per cent, while Hong Kong rose 0.44 per cent and Shanghai gained 0.79 per cent.

The Fed, which kicks off its two-day meeting later Tuesday, is expected to bring an end to its vast asset-buying programme that has been credited with helping the country avoid recession after the financial crisis.

However, traders are more interested in what bank policymakers have to say about interest rates as they try to balance the impact of an increase on the global economy with avoiding any bubbles developing at home.

While the Fed has repeatedly said the first rise would come "a considerable time" after the bond-buying stops, dealers want to know how its language will change once it has.

"Nobody really expects the US central bank to derail the wind-down of its own stimulus programme because of global economic growth fears, but the direction and pace of US interest rates is a real concern," Tatsunori Kawai, chief strategist at Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

On foreign exchange markets the dollar edged up to 107.95 yen from 107.78 yen in New York Monday afternoon.

And the euro fetched US$1.2706 and 137.17 yen against US$1.2699 and 136.86 yen in US trade.

The single currency has been given a lift by a better-than-expected result in eurozone bank stress tests. The European Central Bank said at the weekend that 90 per cent of lenders assessed had passed exams on their overall health.

However, the unit's gains were capped after a closely watched survey of German business confidence fell for a sixth straight month, hitting its lowest level since December 2012.

Oil prices moved lower. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for December delivery fell 40 cents to US$80.60 in early Asian trading while Brent crude for December eased 55 cents to US$85.28.

Gold was at US$1,227.45 an ounce against US$1,230.40 late Monday.


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