Asian Stocks Drift Higher as Investors Await Fed Minutes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
A man cycles past an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Asian stock markets were mixed with subdued movements on Wednesday, getting little push from Wall Street’s record high overnight, as investors awaited the Fed’s latest meeting minutes, due later in the day, for clues about the U.S. central bank’s views on interest rates.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was flat at 19,379.87, while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,106.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 0.8 percent to 24,163.10 and the Shanghai Composite index inched up 0.1 percent to 3,257.46. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,805.10. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

“Given the dearth of data release, FOMC minutes ought to be the main focus for markets that have a penchant for line-by-line dissection and decryption,” Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary, referring to the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee. Last week, Fed chief Janet Yellen indicated the Fed is likely to speed up the pace of interest rate rises if the job market remains healthy and inflation stays on track.

Wall Street again broke records Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 118.95 points, or 0.6 percent, to 20,743. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 14.22 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,365.38. The Nasdaq composite gained 27.37 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,865.95. All three indexes are at record highs after rising nine times in the last 10 days. U.S. markets were closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 18 cents to $54.51 per barrel in New York. The contract rose 55 cents to close at $54.33 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 23 cents to $56.99 a barrel in London.

The dollar weakened to 113.53 yen from 113.57 yen. The euro fell to $1.0521 from $1.0546.