Asian Shares Mixed As Investors Digest Fed Minutes

Asian stocks ended on a mixed note Thursday as the latest guidance on interest rate policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve showed few surprises.

The dollar weakened after two days of gains, helping gold and oil prices trade on a firm note in Asian trading.

Japanese markets were closed for the Emperor’s birthday. China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1 percent to 3,287.48 after choppy trading.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended 0.4 percent lower at 20,351.35 as investors responded to the FOMC minutes showing members are committed to fighting inflation with additional rate hikes.

Seoul stocks rose notably as the Bank of Korea kept interest rates unchanged after steadily raising them for over a year to tackle persistently high inflation.

The Kospi gained 0.9 percent to finish at 2,439.09, led by tech heavyweights and automakers. Samsung Electronics rose 1.5 percent, Hyundai Motor added 1.1 percent, Kia Motors surged 2.6 percent and SK Hynix jumped a little over 4 percent.

Australian markets extended losses for a third straight session as lower commodity prices weighed on mining and energy stocks.

The downside remained capped after data showed Australian business investment rose to a seven-year high in the December quarter, helped by a jump in spending on retail and accommodation.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.4 percent to 7,285.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended 0.3 percent lower at 7,492.50.

Mining giant Rio Tinto gave up 1.7 percent after reporting a 41 percent drop in profits in 2022 and slashing its dividend.

Qantas plunged 6.8 percent despite the airline swinging to a profit for its first half after three pandemic-impacted years.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index jumped 0.8 percent to close at 11,888.50, a day after the country’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to the highest level in over 14 years.

U.S. stocks fluctuated before eventually ending on a mixed note overnight after the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting.

The minutes showed that almost all participants backed a 25-basis point rate hike but a few favored raising rates by 50 basis points to achieve price stability in a timely way.

The Dow eased 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 edged down 0.2 percent to close at one-month lows, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1 percent.

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