Asian shares mirror US losses; Fed meeting in focus

Asian stock markets endured modest losses on Wednesday as a negative lead from Wall Street damped the previous session’s relief rally over the Greek elections.

U.S. stocks were sold off on Tuesday on the back of weak economic data and disappointing corporate earnings, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) and Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) closing down nearly 2 percent each. Orders for business equipment fell 3.4 percent last month, highlighting the impact of the slowing global economy on U.S. multinationals. Attention was also on the U.S. Federal Reserve ahead of its monetary policy announcement later in the day. No change is expected, but market players will watch for any change in wording, such as “considerable time,” that could hint at the timing of a rate hike. “With the FOMC at the beginning of their first two-day meeting of 2015 today, the question now becomes when will we see a rate rise? If corporates continue to feel the strain of the ever-strengthening USD on rate-rise speculation -which will lead to lower job creation and slower wage growth (which is already suffering) – will this stay the hand of the Fed?” said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, in a note.

Nikkei 0.4% lower Japan’s benchmark Nikkei (Nihon Kenzai Shinbun: .N225) index fell from Tuesday’s one-month high as the yen (Exchange:JPYUSD=) continued to strengthen against the greenback below the 118 handle. Sony (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6758.T-JP) reversed earlier losses to rally 2 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that the electronics giant is cutting a thousand jobs at its loss-making smartphone business. The cuts are apparently mostly in Europe and China and follow the thousand jobs Sony said it would slash in October. Canon (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7751.T-JP) and Nintendo (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7974.T-JP) both skidded over 1 percent before reporting quarterly earnings later in the day.

ASX down 0.2% Australia’s S&P ASX 200 (^AXJO) snapped a four-day winning streak but still remained in sight of Tuesday’s two-month closing high of 5,547 points. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar (Exchange:AUD=) jumped nearly 1 percent to approach 80 U.S. cents after fourth-quarter consumer price inflation rose 1.7 percent on year, a touch below expectations for an annual rise of 1.8 percent.Engineering group Bradken (ASX:BKN-AU) plunged 30 percent after announcing that a takeover deal with a private equity consortium collapsed. Kospi slips 0.2% South Korean stocks moved off a one-month high hit in the previous session, tracking declines in the rest of Asia and Wall Street. Among large-caps, Samsung Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) and Shinhan Financial (Korea Stock Exchange: 5555-KR) fell over 1 percent each.

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