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Asian stocks fell on Thursday, following their US counterparts lower as investors digested the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s January policy meeting.
The Fed’s minutes showed that “many” policymakers thought it would be appropriate to raise short-term interest rates again “fairly soon”, notwithstanding the possible uncertainty around the new Trump administration’s economic policies and possible tax cuts.
The market had taken a more hawkish view on rates following a recent speech by Janet Yellen, the Fed chair, prompting speculation rates could be raised as early as March, which has given the dollar a boost over the past week.
The US dollar index was up 0.1 per cent in Asia today, recouping Wednesday’s slight decline. It is trading close to its highest level in almost five weeks.
Major currencies were weaker against the US dollar today, although most Asian currencies were managing to advance. Japan’s yen was fractionally stronger at ¥113.26 per dollar, while South Korea’s won gained 0.3 per cent as its central bank held interest rates steady as expected.
The big loser was the Australian dollar, which fell 0.4 per cent to $0.7676 as data showed capital expenditure in the December quarter contracted more than expected.
Japan’s Topix was down 0.4 per cent. Nissan shares fell 0.9 per cent after the company appointed Hiroto Saikawa as chief executive, replacing Carlos Ghosn, who will still remain chairman of the board.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 per cent. Qantas shares jumped as much as 6.5 per cent as investors looked past a dip in profit and to a solid operating performance.
Crown shares gained as much as 8.5 per cent as the casino operator’s announcement of a share buyback offset concerns about slowing VIP revenue in Macau, a management reshuffle and the dumping of plans for spinning off most of its Australian property assets.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.6 per cent and China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.2 per cent.
Oil prices were firm, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, up 0.8 per cent at $56.28 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate up by the same amount to $54.04.
Gold was down 0.1 per cent at $1,236.35 an ounce.