TOKYO – Asian stocks edged up early on Wednesday after Wall Street indexes notched record highs, while the dollar was steady as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s policy decision later in the day for more clues on its tightening plans.
The Fed concludes a two-day meeting later on Wednesday, and is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged.
With a rate hike not in the picture this time, the focus will be on the Fed’s statement, with markets looking for signs of when the central bank will begin paring its massive bond holdings and next raise rates. A statement is expected at 1800 GMT.
“The stock markets are generally of a view that the Fed is not in too much of a hurry to normalise monetary policy. So equities would be able to take this Fed meeting in stride if the Fed’s statement is in line with such views,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.
A more assertive policy message by the Fed, on the other hand, was expected to lift U.S. yields and boost the dollar.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan , rose 0.1 percent, drawing support after the S&P 500 climbed to an all-time high overnight on well-received results from McDonald’s and Caterpillar in addition to bank share gains.
Caterpillar’s results smashed expectations and the company raised its full-year forecast for the second time, underscoring strength across its businesses and a steady recovery in demand from China.
South Korea’s KOSPI stood little changed and Australian stocks rose 0.9 percent as investors awaited inflation data. Price pressures are expected to remain mild, which would add to views that rates will remain at record lows for some time to come.
The Philippine Stock Exchange Index opened at 8,005.57, up 0.43 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei added 0.8 percent after the dollar extended an overnight rally against the yen to pull away from seven-week lows.
The U.S. currency was last traded at 111.980 yen for a gain of 0.1 percent.
The greenback was lifted as investors gained some hope that President Donald Trump could push through his expansionary fiscal agenda, after the Senate passed a motion to proceed on a repeal of Obamacare, which Trump and Republicans have vowed to undo.
The dollar also received support from a rise in U.S. Treasury yields. Long-dated Treasury yields jumped by the most in almost five months on Tuesday as Wall Street hit new highs and on reduced demand for safe-haven bonds.
The euro was 0.1 percent lower at $1.1638, pulling back from a two-year high of $1.1712 hit on Tuesday on a stronger-than-expected German Ifo business survey.
Expectations that the European Central Bank would begin phasing out its easy monetary policy sooner rather than later have supported the common currency this month.
The dollar index against a basket of major currencies was 0.1 percent higher at 94.144, managing to put some distance between a 13-month low of 93.638 plumbed on Tuesday.
U.S. political uncertainty has recently hurt the dollar, with the Trump administration dogged by investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
In commodities, crude oil extended its surge after jumping overnight on data showing a sharp fall in U.S. crude stocks last week.
U.S. crude rose 1 percent to $48.36 a barrel and Brent added 0.7 percent to $50.56 a barrel.
Gold struggled as improved investor risk appetite in the broader markets curbed the precious metal’s appeal. Spot gold was 0.1 percent lower at $1,247.25 an ounce following its ascent to a one-month peak of $1,258.79 on Monday. – with ABS-CBN News
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