Asia shares fall as markets mull Fed, await China trade meet

Greg Mulligan
The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday as investors analyzed the Fed’s decision to stand pat on interest rates. The focus was turning to talks beginning Thursday between U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing aimed at resolving festering trade tensions.

KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index slumped 1.9 percent to 30,146.44 and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.3 percent to 2,498.45. The Shanghai Composite in mainland China shed 0.6 percent to 3,064.33 but Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.8 percent to 6,098.30. Shares in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were lower. Japan’s markets were closed for a holiday.

TRADE TRIP: A U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was due to arrive in Beijing on Thursday for two days of talks with senior Chinese leaders in an effort to calm worsening friction over the trade imbalance between the world’s two biggest economies.

NO CHANGE: In leaving rates unchanged, as investors and analysts had expected, the Fed said it expects to continue gradually raising them. The U.S. central bank also said inflation is approaching its 2 percent target after years of remaining undesirably low, though policymakers didn’t suggest they’re overly concerned that inflation will overshoot that.

QUICK TAKE: “With much of the good news in the equity world currently factored in, investors are left mulling over the paradoxical landscape of stellar earnings but higher interest rates and the threat of trade war,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asian trading at OANDA. “This struggle is unlikely to end anytime soon.”

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended lower after a sell-off in the final hour of trading. The S&P 500 index fell 0.7 percent to 2,635.67. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.7 percent to 23,924.98. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.4 percent to 7,100.90.

ENERGY: Oil’s rally fizzled. Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 12 cents to $67.81 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped 1 percent to settle at $67.93 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 15 cents to $73.21 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 109.68 yen from 109.86 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1978 from $1.1952.

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