Asian shares fall as Fed minutes show data may tweak stance

SINGAPORE — Asian markets retreated Thursday on news that most U.S. Federal Reserve officials believed the central bank would leave interest rates unchanged for the rest of the year. But several said their views could shift with incoming data.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 shed 0.3% to 21,627.87 and the Kospi in South Korea gave up 0.2% to 2,220.29. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.8% at 29,890.18 and the Shanghai Composite index fell 1% to 3,210.60.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 sank 0.5% to 6,192.90. Shares fell in Taiwan and Indonesia but rose in Singapore.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released minutes from a meeting in March on Wednesday. There were no major surprises. It showed that most officials believed that the central bank would leave its key policy rate unchanged for the rest of the year.

This was in line with the outcome of the March 19-20 meeting, where the Fed trimmed its 2019 rate hikes outlook from two to none.

In the minutes, several Fed officials also said that they may feel differently, depending on the data that surfaces.

Weaker growth and lower inflation expectations could prompt the Fed to cut rates, while stronger growth and rising inflation expectations could warrant a rate hike.

An indication of flexibility caused Asian markets to open in a "slightly soft mood," said Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC Bank.

"The FOMC minutes suggested that rates could head in either direction from here, but members generally favor being patient for the remainder of the year," she added in an interview.

China reported inflation figures in March on Thursday that met market expectations. The country's producer price index rose 0.4% in March from a year ago, according to National Bureau of Statistics. This was up from February's 0.1% increase. Its consumer price index picked up 2.3% in March from a year earlier, as compared to a 1.5% gain in the previous month.

Over on Wall Street, strong gains by technology companies and small-company stocks lifted indexes, while utilities lagged. The broad S&P 500 index climbed 0.3% to 2,888.21. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was less than 0.1% higher at 26,157.16 and the Nasdaq composite jumped 0.7% to 7,964.24. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rebounded 1.4% to 1,581.55.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 31 cents to $64.30 per barrel. It added 63 cents to settle at $64.61 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude shed 27 cents to $71.46 per barrel. The contract gained $1.12 to $71.73 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 111.04 yen from 111 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1275 from $1.1273.

___

AP Business Writers Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise contributed to this report.

Toronto police release cause of death of...

Dec 18, 2017

Toronto homicide detectives have taken over the investigation into the deaths of billionaire Barry...

Canadian theater founder suspended amid...

Jan 4, 2018

A prominent figure in the Canadian arts world has been suspended by the theater company he...

The Latest: Indigenous leaders begin...

Mar 10, 2018

Thousands of demonstrators are marching Saturday morning to speak out against a pipeline expansion...

Trudeau declines to meet Trump because of US...

Jun 1, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he offered to go Washington this week to complete talks...

The Latest: In reversal, Trump doesn't endorse...

Jun 9, 2018

In reversal, Trump tweets that he no longer endorses G-7 joint statement, blames Trudeau's "false...

Financial Markets

Market Sanctum is one of the world’s leading news sources for the currency trading community. Our analysts report on the latest changes in the current market, providing in-depth analysis.

Contact us: sales[at]marketsanctum.com