Asia Pacific stocks up as investors await Fed rate decision

Stocks in Asia Pacific rose in afternoon trade as investors await the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates, expected later on Wednesday stateside.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged higher in early trade, with the Shanghai composite up 0.46% while the Shenzhen composite gained 0.118%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also advanced 0.27%.

South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.86% in afternoon trade. Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.15% as shares of major banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac advanced.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.93%.

On the corporate earnings front, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics posted a first quarter net profit of 4.9 trillion Korean won (approx. $4.01 billion), Reuters reported Wednesday. Still, that was below Refinitiv estimates of 5.1 trillion won.

The industry heavyweight flagged that overall earnings are likely to decline in the second quarter as compared to the previous period, while Covid-19 is expected to significantly impact demand for several of its core products, according to Reuters. Shares of Samsung Electronics last traded about 0.2% higher.

Markets in Japan are closed on Wednesday for a holiday.

In central bank news, the Fed is expected to announce its interest rate decision at 2:00 a.m. HK/SIN on Thursday. Investors will look for guidance on the U.S. central bank’s future path of interest rates as the country looks toward gradually reopening its economy.

“We are not expecting any policy action from the Fed, which has already unleashed unwavering policy easing at emergency meetings; from slashing rates to essentially zero; “unlimited QE”; to various extended liquidity/lending facilities,” analysts at Mizuho Bank wrote in a note.

“It is more likely that the Fed will merely, assess the policy actions that have been announced, and possibly streamline/clarify the plethora of facilities set up,” the analysts said. “That said, there will be nothing in the rhetoric to suggest that the Fed is in anything but dovish mode, and maintaining an aggressive easing stance.”

Oil prices surge

Oil prices jumped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures 4.35% higher at $21.35 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 14.75% to $14.16 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 99.698 after an earlier high of 99.885.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.54 per dollar after strengthening sharply from levels above 107.2 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6533 following a rise from levels below $0.648 yesterday.

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