• Tokyo boosted by Fed minutes but Sydney, Wellington dip


    HONG KONG: Japanese stocks rose on Thursday in holiday-thinned Asian trade, although Sydney and Wellington retreated despite US Federal Reserve minutes suggesting an interest rate hike could be put back.

    Dealers were also keeping tabs on the eurozone after the European Central Bank provided Greece crucial emergency funding before its expected application for a bailout extension.

    Tokyo added 0.59 percent but Sydney slipped 0.18 percent and Wellington was 0.20 percent lower.

    All other regional markets were closed, except Mumbai and Bangkok, which open later in the day.

    Minutes of the Fed’s January policy meeting showed board members remain cautious about lifting rates too soon, despite a healthy recovery in the world’s number one economy.

    With an eye on overseas economic troubles, including in Europe, Japan and China, the minutes showed policymakers were also wary of making any moves too soon, while inflation and wage growth at home remained tepid.

    While markets still see the central bank raising rates around the middle of the year, the latest news dampened expectations that it will come sooner than later.

    “If the Fed delays rate hikes beyond September while the US economy’s not doing badly, it’ll be a boost for stock markets around the world,” Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

    “The general consensus that the rate hikes will be between June and September hasn’t changed.”

    US shares recovered from early losses in reaction to the minutes and ended broadly.

    The Dow dipped 0.10 percent, the S&P 500 eased 0.03 percent from a record high and the Nasdaq added 0.14 percent.

    In Europe the ECB extended emergency liquidity to Greece’s struggling banks a day before the country’s new government is due to ask formally for a six-month extension on its bailout but without the painful austerity measures attached.

    Athens said it was “optimistic” the debt standoff with its eurozone partners could be resolved by meeting the demands of both the Greek people and creditors.

    However, investors remain on edge after European Union heavyweight Germany gave an initial brush-off to the planned offer, which has fanned fears Greece could end up crashing out of the eurozone.

    The euro trod water in Asian trade. It bought $1.1404 and 135.39 yen compared with $1.1398 and 135.35 yen in New York Wednesday.

    The dollar was at 118.73 yen against 118.76 yen.

    Oil prices retreated ahead of a closely watched US stockpiles report, which is forecast to reveal a big rise, dealing a blow after a recent rally in the black gold.

    US benchmark West Texas Intermediate shed $1.52 to $50.62 a barrel Thursday while European benchmark Brent slid $1.00 to $59.53 a barrel.

    Gold fetched $1,215.48 an ounce, against $1,205.48 on Wednesday.



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