Asia markets tepid ahead of Fed meeting

  • Shares in Asia were tepid on the day.
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to begin its two-day monetary policy meeting later on Tuesday stateside.

Shares in Asia were tepid on Tuesday, ahead of a closely watched meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve set to kick off later in the day stateside.

Mainland Chinese shares were mixed on the day, with the Shanghai composite slipping 0.18 percent to 3,090.98 and the Shenzhen component largely flat at 9,839.74. The Shenzhen composite advanced 0.176 percent to 1,688.76.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose around 0.1 percent in its final hour of trading, with shares of HSBC rising more than 0.2 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed slightly lower at 21,566.85 despite shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing, Softbank Group and Fanuc seeing gains on the day. The Topix index declined 0.21 percent to finish at 1,610.23.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi closed fractionally lower at 2,177.62.

Amid the day's declines, one investor said he was "a bit cautious right now."

"It appears that ... risk assets have moved ahead of fundamentals," Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at REYL Singapore, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Tuesday. "If you look at ... the sharp run up in equity markets year to date, it's come against a backdrop of actually slowing economic numbers."

Meanwhile, Australia's ASX 200 closed fractionally lower at 6,184.80.

On Tuesday, the release of March policy meeting minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia showed it noted that trade tensions "remained a continued source of uncertainty for the global outlook."

"The delay in tariff increases previously scheduled for 1 March had generated some optimism that tensions could ease. However, the increases in tariffs implemented in 2018 had continued to weigh on trade between the United States and China, and there had been spillover effects on some other economies," the minutes said. China is Australia's largest trading partner, according to the latest data from its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Australian dollar fell further to $0.7095 in the afternoon, after touching a two-week high above $0.711 yesterday, when it was boosted by a weaker dollar and a rise in iron ore prices, among other factors.

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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Fed meeting on Tuesday

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average capped a four-session winning streak as it closed 65.23 points higher at 25,914.10. The S&P 500 finished its trading day 0.4 percent higher at 2,832.94, while the Nasdaq Composite also added 0.3 percent to close at 7,714.48.

The moves came ahead of a two-day monetary policy meeting by the Fed, set to begin on Tuesday. Market expectations for a rate hike are at zero, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool. However, investors will look for clues about the central bank's economic outlook. The Fed had signaled it will be "patient" in raising rates at its previous meeting this year.

"We'll be looking most closely for whether we see any significant changes in the dot plots and even if, actually, there could be some de-emphasizing of the dots themselves," David Mann, global chief economist at Standard Chartered, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Tuesday. The so-called dot plot is a visual representation of the Fed's interest rate forecast.

The dot plot, Mann said, was adopted at a time when the Fed "wanted to use forward guidance more aggressively as a key way of keeping rates lower for longer," though it has actually become "more of a difficulty at turning points when they are less certain about exactly what they will be doing next."

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, stood at 96.425 after touching an earlier high of 96.524.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.25 against the dollar after seeing lows around 111.6 in the previous session.

Oil prices continued rising this week, supported by the prospect of prolonged OPEC-led supply curbs. Prices saw gains in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract rising 0.3 percent to $67.74 per barrel and U.S. crude futures slightly higher at $59.13 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.