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Asia markets mixed with all eyes on Fed decision

Wednesday 02:20 GMT

Overview

Stock markets across Asia were mixed as anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s policy decision dulled the effect of another set of record highs for Wall Street.

What to watch

All eyes were on the end of the Fed’s two-day policy meeting later in the day, with the US central bank expected to raise interest rates 25 basis points. Roughly a year ago the Fed increased rates for the first time since 2006, but an at-times cautious view of the US economy has seen them stand pat so far this year.

Equities

Australia’s S&P/AS 200, up 0.9 per cent, was the best-performing major benchmark as a burst of takeover activity in the gaming sector helped investors shake off a soggy consumer confidence reading.

Tatts Group was up 8.9 per cent after a consortium led by Macquarie Group offered up to A$7.3bn ($5.5bn) for the company in a move that could scupper a proposed merger with rival Tabcorp.

Japan’s benchmark Topix was down 0.2 per cent. The Bank of Japan’s closely watched Tankan survey of large manufacturers rose in the December quarter, an improvement driven largely by petroleum and coal companies.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.5 per cent while on the mainland China’s Shanghai Composite slipped 0.4 per cent.

On Wall Street, US indices closed at record highs again, with the S&P 500 adding 0.7 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite rising 1 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now only about 90 points away from closing at 20,000.

Forex

The Australian dollar was 0.2 per cent weaker at $0.7488 after a closely watched reading on consumer confidence fell in December to its lowest since April. The drop was blamed on renewed concerns about the economy, such as interest rates and the health of the labour market.

The US dollar index was down 0.1 per cent at 100.98 ahead of the Fed’s policy decision. The Japanese yen was flat at ¥115.17 per dollar.

Commodities

Oil markets were finding gains made earlier this week as non-Opec members agreed to cut production difficult to hang on to. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down 1.2 per cent at $55.08 a barrel in Asia while West Texas Intermediate was down 1.3 per cent.

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