Asian shares trade mixed as Australian miners rise

Major Asian indexes slid on Thursday even though a broad index of equities in the region clung to slight gains. Investors also digested the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep interest rates steady.

The Nikkei 225 trended higher, adding 0.19 percent after hitting its highest levels since 1996 in the prior session.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi slid 0.41 percent. Blue-chip tech stocks edged down after closing higher by more than 3 percent in the Wednesday session: Samsung Electronics was off 0.35 percent and SK Hynix lost 2.34 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 was off 0.06 percent as gains in mining and energy stocks were offset by losses in financials. Miners climbed after iron prices rose on Wednesday: Rio Tinto was up 3.13 percent, Fortescue Metals climbed 4.27 percent and Atlas Iron jumped 6.25 percent.

Shares of National Australia Bank fell 2.83 percent after it reported that full-year profit for the year ending Sept. 30 came in at 6.64 billion ($5.09 billion). The bank also said expenses were expected to increase between 5 and 8 percent for the 2018 fiscal year and that a net 4,000 jobs at the company would be “impacted” by automation efforts.

Greater China markets came under pressure. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.15 percent. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite edged down 0.58 percent and the Shenzhen Composite fell 0.437 percent.

MSCI’s broad index of equities in Asia Pacific excluding Japan held 0.08 percent above the flat line at 12:35 p.m. HK/SIN.

Stateside, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after the Fed held interest rates steady. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.25 percent, or 57.77 points, to end at 23,435.01.

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, a move that was largely expected by markets. The central bank did not explicitly signal when the next interest rate hike would come, but said economic activity in the U.S. was “rising at a solid rate.”

Still, markets took that as an indication that the Fed would likely raise interest rates in December. Odds for a December rate hike stood at 98.2 percent, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool early on Thursday.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump will choose Fed Governor Jerome “Jay” Powell to be the next chair of the central bank, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a source. Trump is due to make his formal announcement on the matter on Thursday U.S. time.

The release of House Republicans’ tax reform bill will also be in the spotlight on Thursday in the U.S. after its unveiling was postponed by one day.

Ahead, investors will keep an eye on the Bank of England, which many expect to raise interest rates for the first time in more than 10 years on Thursday.

Still, one market watcher was less certain about whether or not the central bank would hike rates.

“The market is pricing in a 90.4 percent chance of a hike … but we’re not so sure that the BoE is ready to move, especially given the larger trade deficit, recent weakness in manufacturing activity, retail sales and slowdown in CPI growth,” Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy for BK Asset Management, said in a note.

Also of note, the ISM manufacturing index and private-sector jobs data released on Wednesday showed the U.S. economy was chugging along solidly.

Honda expects full-year operating profit in the year ending March to come in at 745 billion yen ($6.53 billion), above its earlier estimate of 725 billion yen, Reuters said. The upward revision was attributed to solid auto sales in China, Reuters added. Honda stock rallied, climbing 5.96 percent as other Japanese automaker traded mixed.

Meanwhile, Li Ka-shing’s CK Asset Holdings announced on Wednesday it was selling a property in the Hong Kong central business district for a record 40.2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($5.15 billion). Shares of the company jumped 3.01 percent.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six rivals, was softer at 94.552 at 12:30 p.m. HK/SIN. The greenback had broadly firmed in the last session after the Fed held interest rates steady.

Against the yen, the greenback pared gains to trade at 113.92, after fetching as high as 114.21 earlier in the session.

The British pound edged up ahead of the Bank of England’s rates decision. The currency last traded at $1.3274.

Oil prices was little changed after settling lower on Wednesday. Brent crude edged up 0.07 percent to trade at $60.53 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate was off 0.04 percent at $54.28. Source: CNBC

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