Asian shares trade mixed as markets await Fed meeting

Asian markets were mixed on Monday, with Japan’s benchmark index trading below the flat line as the yen firmed. Investors also turned their attention to the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting later in the week.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 recorded steeper losses as morning trade wore on, with the index declining 0.95 percent on the firmer yen, which traded at 105.81 to the dollar at 10:10 a.m. HK/SIN.

Major exporters, including technology and automaker names, as well as financials traded in negative territory, although some manufacturing names clung to gains.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index slipped 0.44 percent. Automakers were sharply lower while steelmakers logged gains. Hyundai Motor fell 4.13 percent in the early going and Posco rose 2.19 percent.

Market sentiment in greater China markets told a different story, with the Hang Seng Index edging up by 0.15 percent as declines in property developers were offset by gains in financials.

The Shanghai composite tacked on 0.1 percent and the Shenzhen composite added 0.43 percent.

Meanwhile, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 got off to a positive start, with the index advancing 0.18 percent. Energy stocks rose 1.51 percent, leading gains in the morning after the rise in oil prices in the last session. Markets in the region had closed mixed in the last session on the back of trade concerns and White House personnel-related developments out of Washington.

Ahead, markets will focus on the two-day Federal Open Market Committee monetary policy meeting later in the week. The central bank is expected to raise interest rates and investors are keen on getting more clarity on the number of rate hikes expected this year.

The meeting will also mark new Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s first press conference.

“It is not a bold forecast to argue that there will be a hawkish undertone from the meeting,” Michelle Meyer, U.S. economist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, said in a report.

“However, our more nuanced view is that while the Fed will take steps in the hawkish direction, they will be baby steps rather than moving in leaps and bounds.”

Stocks stateside edged slightly higher on Friday, but still recorded a loss last week. The Dow and S&P 500 declined 1.5 percent and 1.2 percent on the week, respectively.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer sentiment rose more than expected in a preliminary reading for the month, touching its highest levels since 2004.

Elsewhere, European markets finished stronger on Friday, with the pan-European STOXX 600 closing up 0.22 percent and the FTSE 100 edging up 0.34 percent.

Of note, Chinese President Xi Jinping was re-elected unanimously to the post over the weekend by the country’s mostly rubber-stamp legislature. Wang Qishan, the former anti-corruption chief and an ally of Xi’s, was named vice president.

Meanwhile, economist Yi Gang was nominated to take over the helm at the People’s Bank of China from current governor Zhou Xiaochuan, parliament delegates told Reuters on Monday.

Among individual movers, shares of property developer CK Asset Holdings fell 3.07 percent and conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings declined 1.67 percent after Li Ka Shing said he would step down as chairman of both in May.

Meanwhile, shares of several display makers in the region fell following a Bloomberg report that Apple was producing its own screens for the first time. Samsung Electronics was lower by 0.63 percent, while Japanese names saw sharper falls, with Japan Display down 2.42 percent.

Companies expected to announce results later in the day include Shenzhen Expressway and Hong Kong-listed China Literature.

Source: CNBC