Asian shares mixed ahead of Fed meeting, US-China talks


SINGAPORE (AP) — World markets were mostly higher on Wednesday as traders awaited the conclusion of a Federal Reserve policy meeting and U.S.-China talks. Corporate earnings were also in focus, with strong figures from Boeing boosting sentiment.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.7 percent to 4,964 and Britain’s FTSE 100 climbed 1.7 percent to 6,950. Germany’s DAX declined 0.3 percent to 11,187. Wall Street was set for strong gains. The future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 futures added 0.5 percent.

FED MEETING: All eyes are on a Federal Open Market Committee meeting ending Wednesday. Although the Fed is expected to leave its short-term interest rate unchanged, the nuances of a press conference by Chairman Jerome Powell will be closely watched.

CHINA-U.S. TRADE: On Wednesday, American and Chinese officials will begin two days of trade talks in Washington. President Donald Trump will reportedly meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in an attempt to move negotiations forward. But the Justice Department’s charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei, its subsidiaries and a top company executive may be a hurdle. China has urged U.S. authorities to end what it called an “unreasonable crackdown” against Huawei, which has been accused of stealing technology and violating sanctions on Iran.

U.S. EARNINGS: More than a quarter of the companies on the broad S&P 500 index have reported their earnings for the fourth quarter. Boeing on Wednesday reported annual revenue of more than $100 billion for the first time and its shares soared after the company easily beat Wall Street’s expectations for the fourth quarter. There is more to come. Microsoft and Facebook will add their scores to the mix after U.S. markets close on Wednesday.

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BREXIT ROAD AHEAD: British Prime Minister Theresa May has a few weeks to tweak an Irish border guarantee in an exit deal she reached with the European Union. Lawmakers backed replacing the guarantee with “alternative arrangements” on Tuesday by 317 votes to 301. May promised to “obtain legally binding changes” from the EU, but the bloc said in a statement that the current deal was the “best and only way” forward. Britain is set to leave EU on March 29.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The watch is on for the series of blockbuster events in the day ahead including the Federal Open Market Committee meeting conclusion with Fed Powell’s press conference,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a market commentary. These could “guide the trajectory from the current consolidation,” she said.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index retreated 0.5 percent to 20,556.54 while South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.1 percent to 2,206.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.4 percent to 27,642.85. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.7 percent to 2,575.58. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,886.70. Stocks were flat in Taiwan but rose in Thailand and Indonesia.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 54 cents to $53.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.32 to settle at $53.31 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up 55 cents to $61.87 per barrel. The contract added $1.39 to $61.20 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.48 yen from 109.35 yen late Tuesday. The euro was flat at $1.1432. The British pound was trading at $1.3082, up from $1.3066.

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