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Asia bourses firm ahead of US Fed decision

Wednesday 02.45 BST

Overview

Markets across Asia were mostly firmer with a handful of public holidays keeping regional trading volumes subdued and investors gearing up for the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later on Wednesday.

Hot topic

The Fed’s two-day policy meeting concludes on Wednesday and the central bank is widely expected to keep benchmark interest rates on hold in the range of 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent. The probability of a rate rise is 12.8 per cent, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Weaker-than-expected GDP data for the March quarter released last Friday have stirred doubts about the US economic outlook, and will put Friday’s non-farm payrolls figures into focus.

The dollar index, a measure of the US currency against a basket of global peers, was down 0.1 per cent at 98.899, matching Tuesday’s decline. The greenback is hovering close to its lowest in five months.

The S&P 500 closed 0.1 per cent higher on Tuesday, while the Nasdaq Composite added 0.1 per cent to notch up another consecutive record high.

Equities

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.4 per cent, led lower by the heavyweight materials and financials sectors, while Singapore’s Straits Times index gained 0.5 per cent.

Apple’s Asia-based manufacturers were in focus after the tech group reported slowing iPhone sales and fell in after-hours trading.

In Taiwan shares in Hon Hai Precision Industry (also known as Foxconn) were up 0.5 per cent to a record high, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing was up 0.5 per cent, while Pegatron lost 0.2 per cent. China’s Lens Technology fell 2.7 per cent.

Taiwan’s benchmark Taiex added 0.3 per cent, while China’s Shanghai Composite was up 0.1 per cent, while the technology-focused Shenzhen Composite added 0.2 per cent.

Markets in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

Forex

The New Zealand dollar rose 0.2 per cent to $0.6952 and was among the best-performing major currencies in Asia on Wednesday after data showed the country’s unemployment rate fell in the March quarter to its equal-lowest of the past eight years.

The New Taiwan dollar was also performing well, up 0.2 per cent against its US counterpart.

The Japanese yen was down 0.1 per cent at ¥112.05 per dollar and its lowest since mid-March.

The Australian dollar was down 0.2 per cent at $0.7524.

Commodities

Oil prices rebounded on Wednesday after their biggest drop on Tuesday in a fortnight. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up 1.1 per cent at $51 a barrel after falling 2.1 per cent on Tuesday to a five-month low. West Texas Intermediate recovered 0.9 per cent to $48.11.

Gold was fractionally lower at $1,256.35 an ounce.

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