Asian Stocks Mixed Ahead of Fed Meeting

A currency trader stretches while working at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Asian shares were mixed on Wednesday as some markets erased earlier gains ahead of the Federal Reserve’s first meeting since the appointment of its new chair, Jerome Powell.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index erased earlier gains to fall 0.1 percent to 31,516.84 after rising more than 1 percent earlier in the day. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3 percent to 3,278.67 and South Korea’s Kospi was flat at 2,484.97. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.2 percent to 5,950.30. India’s Sensex rose 0.5 percent to 33,174.69. Stocks in Taiwan were flat but markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher. Japan was closed for a holiday.

The Federal Reserve policymakers have begun a two-day policy meeting that is expected to result in another interest rate increase on Wednesday. The Fed has said it expects to raise interest rates a total of three times this year, and one of the key debates on Wall Street is whether it will wind up increasing rates three times or four. The current meeting is the Fed’s first since Jerome Powell became chairman, and investors will be watching his comments at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

No one knows what to expect from the Fed meeting, Stephen Innes of OANDA Trading said in a commentary. “What we do know, however, is this meeting has lots of eyes on it and not just because it’s Jerome Powell’s first post FOMC press conference, but there’s likely to be some nuanced changes in the Fed statement.”

U.S. stock indexes finished mostly higher on Tuesday. The S&P 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,716.94. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.5 percent to 24,727.27. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent to 7,364.30. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 0.16 points to 1,570.41.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 15 cents to $63.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, it finished at $63.54 per barrel, up $1.42 from the previous session. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 15 cents to $67.57 per barrel in London. It rose $1.37, or 2.1 percent, to finish at $67.42 per barrel on Tuesday.

The dollar fell to 106.37 yen from 106.53 yen. The euro gained to $1.2269 from $1.2241.