By Daniel Inman
Japan’s stocks rose strongly on Wednesday, following strong exports data, outperforming other Asian markets ahead of the conclusion of a much-watched U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting.
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Japanese exports rose 18.4% from a year earlier in November, overshooting expectations for a 17.3% rise. That marked the ninth consecutive month of increase, as manufacturers benefited from a weaker yen brought about by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-growth strategies. A recovery in exports is important for the country’s economy ahead of a planned sales-tax increase in April.
In addition, the dollar moved higher against the yen on speculation that Abe may make a growth-strategy announcement in a speech on Thursday.
The yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.6771% weakened and traded at ¥102.96 late in Asia, compared with ¥102.67 late Tuesday in New York, helping to support a 2% gain in the Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.34% .
In Tokyo, Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +2.06% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE +0.65% underperformed the broader market and was up just 0.3% after a Nikkei report said the company is considering investing an additional ¥30 billion ($292.2 million) in a semiconductor facility that it intends to buy from Renesas Electronics Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203872935/delayed JP:6723 +1.70% /zigman2/quotes/201351352/delayed RNECY +1.46% . Renesas shares ended up 2.3%.
Fed policy makers started to debate the future of the central bank’s stimulus measures overnight, in a meeting that is slated to end with a decision later Wednesday.
Regional markets have drifted downward in recent sessions ahead of this much-anticipated meeting, as investors speculated over the fate of the central bank’s $85 billion-a-month bond-buying plan — a measure that has buoyed stock markets this year.
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Strong economic data from the U.S., especially numbers relating to employment, have led some to believe that the Fed could start to roll back its easy-money policies this month, though many believe that the central bank will wait until next year.
On Wednesday, most markets rose. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.67% gained 0.5%, while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.25% lost 0.1%.
In China, stocks were mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.17% rose 0.3% and the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +1.84% was down 0.1%.
In Hong Kong, Kunlun Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/207929595/delayed HK:135 +0.64% /zigman2/quotes/204365556/delayed KUNUF -2.08% fell 3% after the firm said on Tuesday that a top executive had stepped down as chairman due to “personal matters.” Wen Qingshan was named head of the company in August after his predecessor, Li Hualin, became the subject of an investigation by Chinese authorities for “severe disciplinary violations.”