HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Thursday, taking up the baton from a record-breaking Wall Street, after the Federal Reserve delivered a broadly upbeat outlook on the US economy and suggested interest rates would remain low for some time.
The dollar eased marginally against the yen after a New York sell-off, while oil remained elevated on fears over the crisis in Iraq as the United States considers air strikes against militants sweeping through the country.
Tokyo jumped 1.62 percent to finish at a five-month high, closing up 245.36 points to 15,361.16 despite a stronger yen. Sydney rose by 1.59 percent, or 85.48 points, to close at 5,468.2 and Seoul put on 0.13 percent, or 2.54 points, to 1,992.03.
Hong Kong gained 0.30 percent in afternoon trade, while Shanghai slid 0.40 percent.
After a closely watched meeting, the Fed’s policy committee said it would slash a further $10 billion off its monthly bond-buying and maintain its “highly accommodative” monetary policy of record low interest rates.
Bank policymakers said in a statement economic growth “has rebounded in recent months” from the first-quarter contraction, while household spending and business investment were both rising.
However, while that had been expected, there was no mention of an earlier hike in interest rates than mid-2015. There had been speculation that a recent run of upbeat economic data—including rising inflation—would prompt the bank to consider bringing forward its timetable.
Fed boss Janet Yellen told reporters there is “no mechanical formula” for when the Fed will lift benchmark rates following the end of stimulus.
Analysts also noted the central bank did not significantly increase its inflation forecast, “suggesting that the recent pick-up in inflation doesn’t materially change its near-term outlook for monetary policy,” said a note from IHS Global Insight.
The decision also showed the Fed has faith in the economy despite cutting its growth forecast for this year to 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent, sharply down from its March prediction of 2.8 percent to 3.0 percent before the depth of the winter setback was known.
‘Tokyo up despite weak dollar’
Wall Street reacted positively. The S&P 500 climbed 0.77 percent to tap another record high, while the Dow gained 0.58 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.59 percent
The prospect of interest rates staying low for at least another year sent the dollar falling to 101.91 yen in US trade on Wednesday from 102.17 yen earlier in Tokyo.
The greenback eased a fraction further in Asia on Thursday afternoon, buying 101.90 yen.
The euro was $1.3591 and 138.50 yen, against $1.3593 and 138.52 yen in New York.
“The Fed didn’t say much that the market hadn’t already perceived; hence US stocks’ generally positive . . . reaction,” Nicholas Smith, equity strategist at CLSA, told Dow Jones Newswires.
“More interesting is the fact of Japan shares’ divergence from the dollar/yen market gyrations; the market is up strongly despite a weaker dollar,” he added.
He said this showed sentiment in Japan is picking up, “especially since the fears about the more harmful effects of the April 1 consumption tax hike.”
Oil prices rose in afternoon Asian trade after Iraq’s government appealed for the US to carry out air strikes on jihadists who on Wednesday seized another oil refinery and more territory in the north.
There are fears the rebel offensive could lead to a civil war in the oil exporter, choking crucial supplies.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for July rose 58 cents to $106.55 while Brent crude for August gained 37 cents to $114.63 in afternoon trade.