Asian markets decline ahead of Fed comments

TOKYO — Asian shares were lower Wednesday as world markets cautiously awaited the U.S. central bank’s latest comments on the economic outlook.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225
gave up early gains and slid 0.2% while South Korea’s Kospi
retreated 1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200
dipped 0.7%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng
declined 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite
fell 0.4%. Benchmark indexes in Singapore
and Indonesia
slipped as well.

Investors are awaiting the Federal Reserve’s latest economic and interest rate projections, expected later in the day. Economists expect Fed Chair Jerome Powell will try to convince jittery financial markets that the central bank can continue providing support without igniting higher inflation.

Those worries have recently pushed bond yields higher, sapping buying demand for shares.

The Fed meeting “carries the potential to either allay or heighten some of the market’s recent concern with regard to the soaring bond yields,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Wall Street capped a choppy day of trading with indexes closing mostly lower. Losses by banks, industrial stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending, including cruise line operators, outweighed gains by Big Tech and communication services stocks.

The S&P 500
dropped 0.2% to 3,962.71. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
lost 0.4% to 32,825.95. The Nasdaq
bucked the trend, benefiting from the rally in technology stocks and rising 0.1%, to 13,471.57.

Investors weighed new economic data Tuesday that showed Americans cut back on spending last month, partly due to bad weather in wide parts of the country that kept shoppers away from stores, and partly due to December and January stimulus payments running out.

“We’re still in the midst of getting back to a more normal environment,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede. “Given the lumpiness of government stimulus payments, we’re going to see numbers jumping around.”

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude
fell 9 cents to $64.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 59 cents to $64.80 on Tuesday. Brent crude
the international standard, lost 15 cents to $68.24 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar
rose to 109.12 Japanese yen from 108.99 yen.

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