Business Financials

Asia stocks fizzle over Fed uncertainty

Asia stocks fizzle over Fed uncertainty

Asian stocks drifted Thursday, as gains on Wall Street overnight were offset by questions over the US Federal Reserve’s December meeting which signalled more US interest rate rises.

Tokyo finished flat with the benchmark index losing early gains as Japan’s currency strengthened against the dollar.

Shanghai closed slightly up with a boost from oil shares on hopes that recently announced government reforms of the sector would benefit big players, dealers said.

Hong Kong was up more than one percent.

US central bankers hinted Wednesday they may need to raise interest rates faster than planned due to “considerable uncertainty” linked to Donald Trump’s fiscal stimulus plans, which could fan inflation, according to minutes of the final 2016 policy meeting at which the Fed lifted rates.

The president-elect’s pledge to slash taxes and ramp up infrastructure spending could boost demand above sustainable levels, “potentially necessitating somewhat tighter monetary policy than currently anticipated,” many participants in the December 13-14 meeting said.

Despite these risks, the minutes repeatedly said the central bank expects it can continue to make only “gradual adjustments” in the interest rate.

The dollar fell as the Fed minutes highlighted concerns about the impact of a strong currency on the new US administration’s stimulatory economic policies.

The greenback changed hands at 115.89 yen by close in Tokyo, down from 117.27 yen in New York late Wednesday, with the weaker Japanese currency boosting sentiment among local exporters.

Among Japanese shares, struggling auto parts maker Takata fell as investors cashed in after its shares surged on news last week of an expected settlement over a US criminal probe into exploding airbags.

Takata shares opened higher, soaring 22.44 percent at one point to 1,233 yen — marking a more than a 100 percent rise since December 28 when they started climbing on hopes of a resolution.

In oil markets, prices were flat after surging overnight on optimism that the world’s major crude producers will deliver on a commitment to cut output and ease an oversupply of the commodity.

Traders shifted their focus to US commercial crude inventories data to be released later Thursday by the US Department of Energy, which is a closely watched gauge of demand in the world’s top oil consuming nation.

– Key figures around 0830 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.37 percent at 19,520.69 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.46 percent at 22,456.692

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.21 percent at 3,165.41 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0555 from $1.0493

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2340 from $1.2323

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 115.89 yen from 117.27

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 3 cents at $53.29 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: FLAT at $56.46 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 19,942.16 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 at 7,189.74  (close)

  • Agence France-Presse