HONG KONG: Asian traders moved cautiously Tuesday ahead of a much-anticipated Federal Reserve policy meeting, which they hope will provide clarity on the US central bank’s interest rate plans for the rest the year.
While a string of upbeat economic readings in recent months have made a hike at Wednesday’s gathering an odds-on bet, there is uncertainty about its outlook, dampening buying sentiment of late.
“Markets fully expect a rate rise, so market reaction is likely to be muted unless the Fed disappoints, which would lead to lower bond yields and a lower dollar, although that is not our expectation,” Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, wrote in a note.
“All attention is likely to be focused on the press conference to see whether a more hawkish tone is struck, if so yields and the dollar could move higher still.”
In afternoon Asian trade the dollar edged up slightly against the yen, euro and pound.
Tokyo ended 0.1 percent lower but struggling industrial giant Toshiba reversed an earlier near nine percent slide to end slightly higher after it was given approval to delay the release of its earnings results.
The firm had been hammered as news it would not release its numbers Tuesday raised fears it could be yanked from Japan’s premier stock exchange. The delay stems from an investigation into the US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, the Nikkei business daily said.
In other markets Hong Kong dipped 0.2 percent, Shanghai edged up slightly 0.1 percent and Sydney was flat. Seoul ticked 0.8 percent higher and Singapore was also barely moved.
Regional investors were given a tepid lead from New York as the northeast coast of the US steels for a massive storm that could affect economic output.
And in Europe, Britain is on the cusp of officially triggering Article 50 to leave the EU while there is growing unease about Wednesday’s elections in the Netherlands that far-right anti-EU nationalists are predicted to score well in.
Elections in France and Germany later in the year are also keeping investors on edge, with populists in both countries threatening the status quo.
Key figures around 0700 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 19,609.50 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 23,788.03
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3239.33 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0644 from $1.0654
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2163 from $1.2224
Dollar/yen: UP at 114.90 yen from 114.84 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN five cents at $48.35 per barrel
Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN two cents at $51.33
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 20,881.48 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,367.08 (close)
Bloomberg News contributed to this story