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Asia: Markets down after mixed messages from Federal Reserve

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets fell on Thursday, tracking losses on Wall Street, after the US Federal Reserve cut rates for the first time in more than a decade but failed to offer a clear signal on future easing.

The move to ease the cost of borrowing was well telegraphed and meant to inoculate against global risks washing onto American shores, but financial markets were whipsawed by confusion over whether another cut would be coming.

Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters he remains confident in the American economy and sees no sectors ready to go "bust".

But he said the Fed decided on a 25-basis-point cut in the rate to "insure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade policy uncertainty".

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US President Donald Trump - who had been loudly calling for a rate cut - wasted no time in attacking on Twitter, saying the move fell far short of the "aggressive rate-cutting cycle" he wanted.

"The Federal Reserve gave off the appearance of a rudderless ship with no specific game plan while doing little more than the bare minimum to appease the market's expectations," said VM Markets managing partner Stephen Innes.

The Fed decision sent the US dollar rallying to its highest level in more than two years, while a strong run for oil prices stalled with West Texas futures dropping more than 1.2 percent.

"Commodities should still see some support on easy money flowing throughout all the major central banks in the world," said Oanda Markets senior analyst Edward Moya.

Hong Kong shares fell 0.6 per cent in morning trade after the city's de facto central bank matched the Fed's cut, lowering rates for the first time since 2008.

The move came a day after the release of quarterly GDP figures showing a disappointing 0.6 per cent on-year growth in the financial hub.

Authorities attributed "sluggish" domestic demand and a drop in exports to fallout from the year-long US-China trade row, while analysts warn that weeks of civil unrest could threaten further economic headwinds.

TRADE TALKS END 

Shanghai was down 0.6 per cent a day after the latest round of US-China trade talks wrapped up in the city.

Negotiators on both sides said talks had been "efficient and constructive" but gave no signs of an imminent resolution to the impasse.

"While the bar has been set pretty low for progress, there was a level of disappointment after the meeting," said Innes.

"The fact that they couldn't agree on the G-20's soft-peddled concessions is a worrying sign."

Tokyo clawed back opening losses shortly before lunch, after Mr Powell's statement weighed on equities in key sectors.

Traders were likely to return to buying in companies with strong earnings after a slate of quarterly results were posted this week, Okasan Online Securities said in a note.

AFP