By Kenan Machado
Asia-Pacific stocks rose broadly Wednesday, ahead of the release of minutes from this month’s U.S. Federal Reserve meeting.
But gains on some of the region’s key benchmarks were muted.
“Markets [in Asia] are in a cautious phase,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at broker CMC Markets.
While most investors aren’t anticipating a rate rise from next month’s Fed meeting, future increases are widely expected to exceed the quarter-points of 2015 and 2016.
“The rhetoric on inflation has turned among Fed officials, with many now expecting the firming to continue,” said Sue Trinh, head of Asia forex strategy at RBC Capital Markets. The Fed’s last statement flagged the turn, she added, and a similar vibe is expected from this month’s.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.03% was a leader, up 0.99%. The index was hit Tuesday by an afternoon selloff stoked by a downbeat fourth-quarter report from HSBC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 +0.17% . The bank’s shares on Tuesday fell 5% and were off a further 0.2% Wednesday.
The day’s laggard by far was New Zealand, where earnings news helped push the NZX-50 /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR -0.55% down 0.8%. “Stock-specific action seems to have dragged down the market,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at broker AxiTrader.
North Korea embassy official involved in Kim killing, Malaysia says
Malaysian police said that they had identified two more suspects in the killing of Kim Jong Nam and that the two women who claimed they thought they were shooting a prank video were trained for the crime. Photo: Kyodo/AP
Elsewhere, Australia’s ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.07% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.04% each rose 0.2%, while the Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% eased by less than 2 points as the yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.1786% gained modestly against the dollar. Its weakness Tuesday had helped lift Japanese shares. The dollar was recently around ¥113.15, versus ¥113.70 earlier Wednesday.
Lower yields on Japanese government bonds weighed on financial stocks, which logged modest declines. But steelmakers continued to rally amid hopes that metals prices will continue rising. JFE /zigman2/quotes/204336633/delayed JP:5411 -0.58% rose 3% and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal /zigman2/quotes/209782682/delayed JP:5401 -0.26% added 1.8%, both to 18-month highs.
In the oil patch, futures extended overnight gains in Asian trading. Tuesday’s advance during European trading came after leaders of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries affirmed that their production-cut deal is being implemented.
April Brent oil futures, after rising nearly 1% Tuesday, are up nearly 0.5% more to $57 a barrel, just shy of the highest close this year.