Asian shares advance ahead of Fed meeting, US-China talks

|     Anna Belle Liang     |

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets rose yesterday as traders awaited a Federal Reserve policy meeting and United States (US)-China talks, though Japan’s benchmark declined.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index retreated 0.5 per cent to 20,555.13 while South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.6 per cent to 2,197.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.3 at 27,607.67. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1 per cent to 2,596.62. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 also added 0.1 per cent to 5,877.70. Stocks rose in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

WALL STREET: US indexes reflected a mixed draw of corporate earnings on Tuesday. 3M, the maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics, posted upbeat fourth quarter results. Harley-Davidson reported a drop in sales. Apple announced better-than-expected earnings, and its shares surged 5.7 per cent to USD163.50 in after-hours trading. The S&P 500 index retreated 0.1 per cent to 2,640.00 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2 per cent at 24,579.96. The Nasdaq composite, which has many technology stocks, shed 0.8 per cent to 7,028.29. The Russell 2000 index lost 0.1 per cent to 1,471.45.

FED MEETING: All eyes are on a Federal Open Market Committee meeting which ended yesterday. Although the Fed is expected to leave its short-term interest rate unchanged, the nuances of a press conference by Chairman Jerome Powell will be closely watched.

CHINA-US TRADE: American and Chinese officials will begin two days of trade talks in Washington. US President Donald Trump will reportedly meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in an attempt to move negotiations forward. But the Justice Department’s charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei, its subsidiaries and a top company executive may be a hurdle. China has urged US authorities to end what it called an “unreasonable crackdown” against Huawei, which has been accused of stealing technology and violating sanctions on Iran.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Asia’s markets are trading quietly sideways this morning, and we would expect that to be the theme of the day as the event-risk needle swings much higher from tonight in North America,” Jeffrey Halley of OANDA said in a market commentary.

Specialist Peter Mazza (L) works with traders at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks opened on Tuesday slightly higher on Wall Street as several big United States (US) companies reported solid results for the latest quarter. – AP

ENERGY: Benchmark US crude rose 15 cents to USD53.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It gained USD1.32 to settle at USD53.31 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up 21 cents to USD61.41 per barrel. The contract added USD1.39 to USD61.20 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 109.34 yen from 109.35 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to USD1.1439 from USD1.1432.