Caution before Fed flattens Nikkei Asia300 Index
HONG KONG (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan barely budged on Wednesday, reflecting nervousness as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's intentions for further monetary tightening and Dutch voters went to the polls.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index of more than 300 influential companies in the region settled at 1,140.72, little changed from the previous close. The Nikkei A300 South Korean index retreated 0.4% as investors looked past local political developments that had spurred equities over the past few days. The Nikkei Asia300 Hong Kong index edged 0.2% higher on gains by some airlines and real estate shares, even as several Chinese companies came under pressure on concern the Fed's tightening could weaken the yuan and renew worries about capital outflows. The country index for China slipped 0.2%.
The odds of a 0.25 percent increase in the Fed's policy rates have progressively increased since the central bank's last meeting, with a strong nonfarm payrolls number for February removing any remaining doubts in the minds of most traders that the Fed would lift borrowing costs. Even before the two-day meeting's end, investor focus has shifted to whether the Fed's members will see the need for faster tightening than the three hikes they had previously projected for this year.
Elections in the Netherlands added to the cautious tone, with markets waiting to see how much support populists running on an anti-European Union and anti-immigration policy agenda garner as voting began.
Wheelock jumped 5.2% in Hong Kong, extending its rally after reporting upbeat annual results earlier this week. Air China and China Southern Airlines added at least 3.2% after reporting an increase in February passengers.
Cathay Pacific Airways declined 1.4% after reporting a net loss for 2016 and flagging a challenging operating environment for this year.
Idea Cellular jumped nearly 10% in Mumbai following local media reports that it's likely to sell a stake in its telecommunication towers business. Tata Consultancy Services dropped 2.4% on concern a strengthening rupee will weigh on the software exporter's repatriated earnings. India's 44-stock index rose 0.9%.
The Nikkei A300 Singapore Index slipped 0.3%. Olam International slid 2.1%, while Singapore Airlines lost 0.8%. Data released earlier in the day showed the city's property developers sold 977 private homes last month, more than twice the number for January as well as December.
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Nikkei A300 country indexes for Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines dropped at least 0.2%.
-- V. Phani Kumar