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Asia: Markets mostly up in holiday-thinned trade

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[HONG KONG] Asian traders shifted cautiously on Wednesday as they await the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later in the day and the release of key US jobs data at the end of the week.

With Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all closed for public holidays business was thin, despite another record close for the Nasdaq on Wall Street, as traders wait for cues from Washington.

While the Fed is not expected to lift interest rates, with policymakers taking note of a recent run of weak indicators, its post-meeting statement will be parsed for clues about its plans for later in the year.

"With the big slip in data recently there is no chance they raise rates but the statement could contain a discussion about the balance sheet taper so many Fed speakers have been talking about recently," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

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Minutes from the bank's March meeting showed the policy board was considering tightening monetary policy by sucking cash out of the financial system, which spooked investors early last month.

Friday sees the next key event when the government releases jobs creation figures for April, which will be used by the Fed to gauge when it will next hike borrowing costs.

In early trade Shanghai was up 0.1 per cent, Sydney dipped 0.4 per cent and Singapore added 0.5 per cent while Taipei and Manila were slightly higher.

Wall Street provided another healthy lead, with the Nasdaq posting yet another record while the Dow and S&P 500 also pushed higher. Markets in Europe closed with healthy gains.

On currency markets the dollar held its ground above 112 yen, while the pound maintained its recent gains, with a strong reading on British manufacturing activity providing a boost on Tuesday.

The euro is also sitting at recent highs ahead of Sunday's second round of France's presidential election, in which moderate Emmanuel Macron is expected to beat his far-right, anti-EU opponent Marine Le Pen.