Asian stocks to open lower as investors eye Fed meeting

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set to open mostly lower on Wednesday following a sell-off in U.S. stocks, as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s meeting and whether the central bank will maintain near-zero interest rates amid the economy’s post-pandemic recovery.

FILE PHOTO: A man is reflected on a stock quotation board in Tokyo, Japan February 26, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.34% in early trading.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures fell 0.20%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 0.34%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.13%.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones retreated late in the session on Tuesday as yields on longer-maturity U.S. Treasury bonds ticked up. This undercut investor optimism stoked by economic aid and vaccination drives.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.39% to end at 32,825.95 points, while the S&P 500 lost 0.16% to 3,962.71. The Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.09% to 13,471.57.

Recent volatility in money markets has stoked speculation the Federal Reserve may be forced into a technical adjustment to the levers controlling its benchmark interest rate, but few expect the central bank to act on the matter at this week’s meeting.

“We expect (Chair Jerome) Powell to note the (Federal Open Markets Committee) has the tools to intervene if the bond market becomes disorderly or constrains the economic recovery,” analysts of Commonwealth Bank of Australia wrote. “But we expect Powell to push back against talk of policy tightening because of the large amount of labour market slack.”

“US bond yields and the USD could jump if the FOMC’s post‑meeting statement and Powell’s statement are not deemed dovish enough.”

The Fed is expected to forecast that the U.S. economy will grow in 2021 at the fastest rate in decades.

The Bank of England also meets on Thursday, and the Bank of Japan wraps up a policy review on Friday in which it may phase out a numerical target for its asset buying.

The yield on benchmark 10-year notes fell to 1.5281%, from 1.544% late on Tuesday.

Oil prices were lower again on Tuesday on concerns over demand after Germany, France and other European countries suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

In currencies, the dollar held small gains, with caution evident ahead of the central bank meetings.

The dollar index rose 0.059%, with the euro down 0.22% to $1.1902.

The Australian dollar fell 0.01% versus the greenback at $0.774.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.09% versus the greenback at 109.01 per dollar.

Gold edged lower on Tuesday, pressured by a stronger dollar. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.1% at $1,730.90.

Brent crude futures settled down 49 cents at $68.39 a barrel and U.S. crude futures fell 59 cents to settle at $64.80 a barrel.

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