Asia Pacific stocks were mostly down Wednesday morning but moves remained muted ahead of a highly anticipated U.S. Federal Reserve policy decision, due to be handed down later in the day.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.31% by 10:29 PM ET (2:29 AM GMT). Trade data for May was lower than expected, with exports growing 49.6% year-on-year and the trade balance contracting to JPY187.1 billion. However, imports grew a better-than-expected 27.9% year-on-year.
South Korea’s KOSPI gained 0.60% and in Australia, the ASX 200 was up 0.24%. Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Wednesday that the country is bolstering its legal arguments ahead of potentially taking its wine-tariff trade dispute with China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for arbitration.
The WTO action is “under active consideration” and Australia would be “making a decision very shortly,” Tehan added.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index Index edged down 0.16%.
China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.49% and the Shenzhen Component fell 0.55%. Economic data, including industrial production and the unemployment rate, will be released later in the day.
nvestors eagerly await the Fed decision for clues as to when asset tapering will begin as the U.S. continues its economic recovery from COVID-19. New York governor Andrew Cuomo and California governor Gavin Newsom both lifted pandemic restrictions in their states.
Although some investors are using a so-called dot plot to predict an interest-rate increase in 2023, the central bank is unlikely to signal a scaling back of bond purchases until later in 2021.
“The outlook looks pretty positive but a lot of investors are asking for there to be better clarity on when we are going to have some start to the taper,” Kayne Anderson Rudnick portfolio manager and senior research analyst Julie Biel told Bloomberg.
“There’s a lot of nerves that we are going to wait too long, the economy is going to overheat and then we’re going to have to taper all at once, so there are a lot of dueling pressures,” she added.
Other central banks due to hand down policy decisions include the Swiss National Bank and Norges Bank on Thursday, followed by the Bank of Japan on Friday.
On the data front, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield hovered around the 1.5% mark after Tuesday’s U.S. Commerce Department figures said core retail sales contracted a larger-than-expected 0.7% month-on-month in May.
Producer prices further stoked price pressures, with the producer price index growing a better-than-expected 0.8% month-on-month and 6.6% year-on-year respectively in May. Industrial production for May was mixed, growing a better-than-expected 0.8% month-on-month but slowing down slightly to a 16.37% growth year-on-year.
Also on investors’ radars is the meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later in the day in Geneva. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will also testify on the federal budget before a House of Representatives panel a day later.