Asia-Pacific markets traded mixed on Wednesday as investors wait for the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting later in the day.
Australia shares cut back some of their earlier losses as the ASX 200 closed down 0.47% at 6,795.20. The energy and materials subindexes declined 1.19% and 1.46%, respectively as oil and mining stocks broadly declined. Major miners Rio Tinto and BHP closed down 0.95% and 1.64% respectively.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan finished near flat at 29,914.33 while the Topix index rose 0.13% to 1,984.03. South Korea’s Kospi slid 0.64% to 3,047.50.
Chinese mainland shares were mixed: The Shanghai composite was near flat at 3,445.55 but the Shenzhen component rose 1.22% to 13,809.77. Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index retraced earlier gains to trade near flat in late-afternoon trade.
Indian shares also struggled for gains but Singapore’s Straits Times index inched higher in afternoon trade.
That followed an overnight session where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 130 points, breaking a seven-day winning streak.
The Federal Open Market Committee’s policy meeting will take centre stage, according to Carol Kong, a strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
She explained in a morning note that both U.S. bond yields and the dollar could jump if the Fed’s post-meeting statement and Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks are not deemed dovish enough. “We do not expect the FOMC to be worried about or even note the lift in bond yields in their post‑meeting statement. Higher bond yields are not a constraint on the US economic recovery,” she wrote.
“We expect Chair Powell to note the FOMC has the tools to intervene if the bond market becomes disorderly or constrains the economic recovery,” Kong said, adding that the Australian bank also expects the Fed to upgrade its GDP and inflation forecasts due to vaccination rollout and fiscal stimulus.
Asian Markets Currencies and Oil
In the currency market, the U.S dollar traded near flat at 91.860 against a basket of its peers, retreating from an earlier level at 91.968. The index has stayed relatively rangebound this week as it attempts to break the 92 level again.
The Japanese yen changed hands at 109.14 per dollar, strengthening from levels near 109.2 reached earlier in the session. The Australian dollar slipped 0.14% to $0.7734.
Oil prices reversed the downward trend on Wednesday afternoon during Asian trading hours and climbed higher. U.S. crude rose 0.73% to $65.27 a barrel while international benchmark Brent advanced 0.63% to $68.82.
Overnight, prices fell as traders worried about the recovery in fuel demand after major European countries suspended the use of a crucial Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca, which implied economic recovery from the pandemic-led crisis may potentially be delayed.
Experts have warned that the suspension could have far-reaching consequences.
“Crude oil fell as the market frets over the uneven global recovery in demand,” analysts at ANZ Research said in a morning note. “Growing demand has surfaced in India and the US in recent months, but Europe remains weak.”
“Concerns that demand could fall further have been rising as Europe’s health ministers suspend the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine amid health concerns,” the analysts added.