Stocks open slightly higher on upbeat earnings, forecasts


SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets rose Wednesday as traders awaited a Federal Reserve policy meeting and U.S.-China talks, though Japan’s benchmark declined.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index retreated 0.5 percent to 20,555.13 while South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.6 percent to 2,197.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.3 at 27,607.67. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1 percent to 2,596.62. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 also added 0.1 percent to 5,877.70. Stocks rose in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

WALL STREET: U.S. indexes reflected a mixed draw of corporate earnings on Tuesday. 3M, the maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics, posted upbeat fourth quarter results. Harley-Davidson reported a drop in sales. Apple announced better-than-expected earnings, and its shares surged 5.7 percent to $163.50 in after-hours trading. The S&P 500 index retreated 0.1 percent to 2,640.00 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2 percent at 24,579.96. The Nasdaq composite, which has many technology stocks, shed 0.8 percent to 7,028.29. The Russell 2000 index lost 0.1 percent to 1,471.45.

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-US TRADE: American and Chinese officials will begin two days of trade talks in Washington. U.S. 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.

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ANALYST’S TAKE: “Asia’s markets are trading quietly sideways this morning, and we would expect that to be the theme of the day as the event-risk needle swings much higher from tonight in North America,” Jeffrey Halley of OANDA said in a market commentary.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 15 cents to $53.46 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 21 cents to $61.41 per barrel. The contract added $1.39 to $61.20 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 109.34 yen from 109.35 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1439 from $1.1432.

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