- POSTED: 18 Dec 2013 16:53
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Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention focused on Washington as investors await the end of a Federal Reserve policy meeting to find out its plans for a huge stimulus programme.
HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention focused on Washington as investors await the end of a Federal Reserve policy meeting to find out its plans for a huge stimulus programme.
Japanese equities were the stand-out performers after official data showed a surge in exports thanks to a weaker yen.
Tokyo rose 2.02 percent, or 309.17 points, to 15,587.80, Sydney slipped 0.14 percent, or 7.1 points, to 5,096.1 and Seoul ended 0.45 percent, or 8.89 points, higher at 1,974.63.
Shanghai lost 0.13 percent, or 2.79 points, to close at 2,148.29 while Hong Kong added 0.32 percent, or 74.59 points, to end at 23,143.82.
Regional traders were given a soft lead from Wall Street, where the three main indexes ended lower following a tepid set of economic figures.
With the Fed due to wrap up its two-day policy meeting later in the day, opinion is split on whether it will announce a cut in its $85 billion a month bond-buying scheme.
While some analysts point to a string of figures that indicate a healthy pick-up in the US economy, boosting the argument for a slight reduction, others say the central bank will likely wait until early next year to see if the recovery can be sustained.
"Wednesday's Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement is one of the most anticipated events of the year," said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.
John Kicklighter, chief currency strategist at DailyFX, said speculation about the Fed decision "has run rampant".
The latest numbers showed the economy is still fragile. Consumer prices were unchanged in November compared with October and up a tame 1.2 percent from the previous year. Inflation remains well below the Fed's 2.0 percent annual target.
Income growth for Americans -- a key indicator of the health of the economy -- remained modest at 1.1 percent year-on-year.
The Dow edged a touch lower, the S&P 500 fell 0.31 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.14 percent.
On currency markets the dollar rose to 102.94 yen in early trade from 102.63 yen in New York late Tuesday. The euro bought $1.3767 and 141.74 yen against $1.3765 and 141.28 yen.
Japanese shares outperformed the region after Tokyo released figures showing exports last month rose 18.4 percent year-on-year, boosted by shipments of automobiles and a weaker yen. Expectations had been for a 17.3 percent rise, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
However, while the likes of Toyota and Sony benefited, the softer currency also sent the price of imports higher, especially for energy. The value of imports soared 21.1 percent, leaving Tokyo with a trade deficit for the 17th straight month.
Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for January delivery, was up 21 cents at $97.43 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for February rose eight cents to $108.52.
Gold fetched $1,230.84 at 0810 GMT compared with $1,239.20 late Tuesday.
In other markets:
-- Taipei was flat, edging down 3.89 points to 8,349.04.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. fell 2.42 percent to TW$101.0 while Hon Hai rose 1.02 percent to TW$78.9.
-- Wellington gave up 0.10 percent, or 52.14 points, to finish at 4,675.88.
Fletcher Building was down 2.22 percent at NZ$8.35, Air New Zealand shed 0.62 percent to NZ$1.615 and Telecom slipped 1.29 percent to NZ$2.29.
-- Manila gained 0.55 percent, or 32.56 points, to 5,961.55.