Asian stocks mixed as Fed steers clear of signaling rate cut

SINGAPORE — Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate intact and steered clear of suggesting that a cut was possible this year. Trading was light with markets in Japan and mainland China closed.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% to 29,829.76 while Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.6% to 6,340.20. The Kospi in South Korea was 0.3% higher at 2,209.33. Stocks rose in Taiwan but fell in Singapore and Indonesia.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate — which determines the cost of borrowing for individuals and businesses — in a range of 2.25% to 2.5% as expected.

Still, some traders had hoped the Fed would signal a rate cut to lift persistently low inflation to its 2% target rate. The Fed's preferred 12-month inflation barometer is running at about 1.5%.

Chairman Jerome Powell steered clear of this at a news conference. "The committee is comfortable with our current policy stance," he said.

Powell added that current inflation readings may be transitory and not fully indicative of real-world price increases.

"Equity markets were looking for so much more from the Fed and were shocked when Chair Powell said the Fed did not see a convincing case to move rates in either direction," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

Over on Wall Street, stocks closed lower after climbing earlier in the day on strong earnings reports.

The broad S&P 500 index retreated 0.8% to 2,923.73 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6% to 26,430.14 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.6% to 8,049.64. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks shed 0.9% to 1,576.38.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 14 cents to $63.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 31 cents to settle at $63.60 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 19 cents to $71.99 per barrel. It added 12 cents to close at $72.18 per barrel in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.54 Japanese yen from 111.38 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1207 from $1.1198.

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