Asia shares mostly lower, weaker yen boosts Tokyo


HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly lower on Wednesday as tensions in Iraq dampened buying sentiment and investors await the outcome of the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later in the day.

The dollar extended gains against the yen, after climbing in New York on news that US inflation rose in May at its fastest pace for more than 18 months.

Tokyo rose 0.93 percent, or 139.83 points, to 15,115.80, with the weaker yen helping the Nikkei to a second day of gains.

But Seoul lost 0.60 percent, or 12.06 points, to 1,989.49 and Sydney fell 0.33 percent, or 17.97 points, to 5,382.7.

Hong Kong was flat, edging down 21.87 points to 23,181.72 while Shanghai fell 0.54 percent, or 11.18 points, to 2,055.52.

With few other catalysts to drive trade, investors are watching events in Iraq as militants close in on Baghdad after taking control of a number of towns and cities.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sacked several top security commanders after government forces crumbled in the jihadist onslaught, which the UN has warned risks breaking up the country.

President Barack Obama has sent troops to Baghdad to strengthen security for the US embassy and is weighing potential military options, including air strikes, to counter the rebels.

The fighting has raised fears about oil supplies from the country. International prices are already at nine-month highs.

In afternoon Asian trade the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for July delivery, gained 41 cents to $106.77, while Brent crude for August added 25 cents to $113.70.

The Fed will wrap up a two-day policy meeting later in the day. While policymakers are widely expected to continue winding down their stimulus, investors will be watching to see if Fed chief Janet Yellen gives any hints about future policy. Of particular interest is the future of interest rates. While the bank has consistently said it will hold rates at record lows well into next year, it still faces rising inflation and a pick-up in the jobs market.



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