Asian Markets Restore Calm After Fed Signals Spark Sell-Offs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan January 12, 2016. Japan's Nikkei fell 2.7 percent after a market holiday on Monday, closing at its lowest in nearly a year, while U.S. stock mini futures were in the red pointing to a weak start. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Asian stock markets drifted slightly higher on Friday as investors restored calm a day after worries about the Fed’s likely rate hike signals prompted sell-offs.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.3 percent to 16,693.39 while South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.1 percent to 1,948.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.2 percent to 19,931.54. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 2,809.72. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 5,358.30.

At the Fed’s meeting in April, policymakers indicated an increase in rates was likely in June, assuming the economy and labor market continued to strengthen. Asian stocks finished lower on Thursday at the unexpected rate hike signal. Higher rates diminish the appeal of high-dividend companies for investors seeking income.

“It’s rare that the Fed speakers put on a unified front to warn about potential policy changes. We are usually accustomed to their mantra for data-driven policy decisions,” said Bernard Aw, a market strategist at IG. “Investors are worried that if there is a rate hike in June, the economy may not be able to support it.”

U.S. stock markets finished lower on Thursday on expectations that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates next month. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to 17,435.40. The S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent to 2,040.04. The Nasdaq composite gave up 0.6 percent to 4,712.53.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil added 54 cents to $49.22 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 11 cents to close $48.67 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 44 cents to $49.25 a barrel in London

The dollar strengthened to 110.10 yen from 109.94 yen and the euro rose to $1.1204 from $1.1203.