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Asian markets closed mixed as traders await Federal Reserve decision

Asia markets closed mixed Wednesday, following a weaker finish on Wall Street overnight as traders await the U.S. Federal Reserve decision due later.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to stand pat on policy at its meeting today, but analysts will be closely watching the wording of the Federal Open Market Committee's statement for cues on the direction ahead. That uncertainty is helping to keep markets constrained.

"The Fed meeting this evening has loomed large over Asian markets today," said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG, in note Wednesday. "Volumes were down across the board, as investors decided to keep money on the sidelines until they see the ultimate decision from the Fed."

The Australian S&P/ASX 200 closed up 0.15 percent, or 7.58 points, at 5,119 points. The materials subindex was down 0.72 percent. but losses were offset by gains of 0.44 percent in the energy subindex and 0.54 percent increase in the heavily weighted financial subindex.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 shed 0.83 percent, or 142.62 points, to 16,974.45 by Wednesday's close, extending Tuesday's 0.68 percent fall.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 0.25 percent, or 4.93 points at 1,974.9. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed down 0.15 percent, or 31.07 points, at 20,257.7.

Chinese markets were also mixed, with the Shanghai composite closing up 0.21 percent, or 6.11 points, at 2,870.48 and the Shenzhen composite closing down 1.02 percent, or 17.61 points, at 1,711.47.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Japanese exporters ended mostly lower, with Toyota shares down 0.71 percent, Honda 2.19 percent lower and Nissan slipping 1.23 percent.

Shares of electronics giant Sharp tumbled 11.84 percent after a report said that Taiwan-based Foxconn may delay its Sharp takeover deal to get further clarity on its financial performance, reported Reuters.

In late February, Reuters had reported that Sharp had contingent liabilities of around 300 billion yen ($2.66 billion) which had not been disclosed to Foxconn.

In the currency market, the Japanese yen held steady at the 113 handle against the dollar, after yesterday's Bank of Japan decision to keep interest rates on hold. The dollar/yen pair traded up at 113.65 as of 4:05 p.m. HK/SIN time.

"Slight risk aversion ahead of the FOMC later today may continue to keep the [dollar/yen pair] in a strait jacket," said Emmanuel Ng, foreign-exchange strategist at OCBC Bank, in a note Wednesday.

On the mainland, the Chinese yuan weakened against the dollar, with the dollar/yuan pair trading up 0.15 percent at 6.5205 at 2:47 p.m. HK/SIN time. Before the market opened, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) set the yuan mid-point rate higher at 6.5172, compared with Tuesday's fix at 6.5079.

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Down Under, the Australian dollar/U.S. dollar pair was flat at 0.7456 as of 4:05 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Resource producers were down, with shares of Rio Tinto lower by 0.65 percent, Fortescue falling 4.33 percent and BHP Billiton shedding 1.46 percent.

In the oil space, U.S. crude futures climbed 1.32 percent to $36.75 a barrel after settling U.S. trade down 2.26 percent, while global benchmark Brent was up 0.26 percent at $39.00 as of 4:05 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Some analysts believe oil prices will continue to sway market sentiment.

"Oil will remain a leading commodity and its movements will govern equity markets in the short term," said Evan Lucas, market strategist from IG, in a morning note.

Overnight in the U.S., major indexes finished mixed, with only the Dow Jones industrial average higher, rising 0.13 percent. The S&P 500 closed down 0.18 percent and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.45 percent.

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