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Major Asian markets close sharply lower after Fed signals more hikes ahead; Kospi leads losses

  • Asian stocks closed lower on Thursday, with South Korea leading losses.
  • The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates, a widely expected move, and indicated two more rate hikes were likely this year.
  • Markets awaited the European Central Bank meeting later in the day.

Major Asian markets closed sharply lower on Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, a widely expected move, and indicated two more rate hikes were likely in 2018.

The Nikkei 225 saw losses steepen as the yen firmed near the end of the session. The index sank 0.99 percent, or 227.77 points, to end at 22,738.61. Declines were broad-based, with mining stocks falling 1.79 and consumer names also sliding. Banks and shippers, however, clung to gains.

In Seoul, the Kospi fell 1.84 percent to 2,423.48, lagging other major markets in the region. Automakers were lower, with Hyundai Motor falling 3.91 percent.Technology stocks were a mixed picture, with Samsung Electronics dropping 2.43 percent and LG Electronics bucking the trend to rise 4 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 sank below the flat line, closing lower by 0.11 percent at 6,016.60. Gains in materials and telecommunications were offset by declines in the financials subindex. Utilities stocks fell more than 1 percent after jumping in the previous session.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 1.09 percent by 3:15 p.m. HK/SIN, with the energy, consumer goods, property and technology sectors all seeing declines of more than 1 percent before the market close. Mainland markets saw slimmer losses, with the Shanghai composite erasing early gains to close lower by 0.17 percent at 3,044.46.

The declines recorded in greater China markets came as China's industrial production for May came in below expectations at 6.8 percent. Fixed asset investment and retail sales also missed forecasts.

MSCI's index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan sank 1.21 percent in the afternoon.

Fed signals two more hikes this year 

The Federal Reserve raised rates by 25 basis points and signaled two additional rate hikes later in the year. Wednesday's interest rate hike pushed up the funds rate target to 1.75 percent to 2 percent. The central bank's first rate hike this year took place in March.

"The rate hike was a forgone conclusion, so did little to stir. But the decisive vote to shift up 2018 'dot plot' to four rate hikes from three was arguably the real, and more distinct hawkish trigger," Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, said in a morning note.

U.S. stocks ended lower after the Fed raised interest rates, with the Dow Jones industrial average declining 0.47 percent, or 119.53 points, to close at 25,201.20.

U.S. Treasury yields rose on the back of the Fed's move, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note crossing the 3 percent level, before later receding. The two-year Treasury note yield, meanwhile, hit its highest level since 2008 in the last session.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, rose as high as 94.028 on Wednesday, before easing to last trade at 93.402.

Against the yen, the dollar softened to trade at 109.96 by 3:19 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to its previous close above the 110.30 level.

Markets will next focus on the European Central Bank, which could yield hints on the winding down of its quantitative easing program at the end of its meeting later in the day. The Bank of Japan's policy meeting, meanwhile, will end on Friday.

Trade tensions, which had recently yielded some of the spotlight to nuclear negotiations, could also make a return to the fore. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with members of his administration to make a decision on whether or not to activate billions in tariffs on Chinese imports, Reuters reported, citing a source.