Nikkei ekes out small gains after Fed; Fast Retailing falls

Posted March 18, 2017

Strong data out of China this week have sparked a fresh rally in Hong Kong stocks .HSI , while Indian shares climbed to a record high on Tuesday as investors saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi's landslide victory in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh as endorsing his economic reform agenda.

Asian markets traded sideways on Friday, following a flat to lower close on Wall Street, in a light regional data day.

China's central bank raised short-term interest rates following the USA rate increase.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 6.94 points, or 0.03 percent, to 20,927.61, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.64 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,379.74 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 6.50 points, or 0.11 percent, to 5,894.26. Most investors expect it to raise rates for only the third time since they went to almost zero during the financial crisis in 2008.

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Australia's ASX 200 added 0.32 percent, buoyed by its gold sub-index, which was up 1.61 percent.

The greenback was also down against most high-yielding units with South Korea's won 0.8 percent higher and the Australian dollar 0.2 percent up.

ANALYST'S VIEWPOINT: "On the one hand, the market ponders a surprise hold, in which massive unwinding of positions could take place with the hike already priced in", said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

With the outcome of policy meetings at the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan coupled with a Dutch election vote all due within the next 36 hours, there is no shortage of event risks in financial markets.

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The ECB will decide later whether to raise interest rates before or after ending its bond purchase program, policymaker Ewald Nowotny told a newspaper.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0771 from $1.0726 in Asia, while the dollar was edged up to 113.42 yen from 113.40 yen.

On the other hand, mining shares rose after crude oil prices extended gains from the previous session after official government data showed USA stockpiles had eased from record highs. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 was up 1.5 percent at $48.45 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price global oils, added 74 cents to $51.66 per barrel in London.

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