HONG KONG: Asian traders moved cautiously on Tuesday (Mar 14) ahead of a much-anticipated Federal Reserve policy meeting, which they hope will provide clarity on the US central bank's interest rate plans for the rest the year.
While a string of upbeat economic readings in recent months have made a hike at Wednesday's gathering an odds-on bet, there is uncertainty about its outlook, dampening buying sentiment of late.
"Markets fully expect a rate rise, so market reaction is likely to be muted unless the Fed disappoints, which would lead to lower bond yields and a lower dollar, although that is not our expectation," Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, wrote in a note.
"All attention is likely to be focused on the press conference to see whether a more hawkish tone is struck, if so yields and the dollar could move higher still."
In afternoon Asian trade the dollar edged up slightly against the yen, euro and pound.
Tokyo ended 0.1 per cent lower but struggling industrial giant Toshiba reversed an earlier near nine per cent slide to end slightly higher after it was given approval to delay the release of its earnings results and said it was considering selling a majority stake of its loss-making US nuclear unit.
The firm had been hammered as news it would not release its numbers on Tuesday raised fears it could be yanked from Japan's premier stock exchange. The delay stems from an investigation into the US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, the Nikkei business daily said.
In other markets, Hong Kong was flat, Shanghai edged up slightly 0.1 per cent and Sydney was flat. Seoul ticked 0.8 per cent higher and Singapore was also barely moved.
Regional investors were given a tepid lead from New York as the northeast coast of the US steels for a massive storm that could affect economic output.
And in Europe, Britain is on the cusp of officially triggering Article 50 to leave the EU while there is growing unease about Wednesday's elections in the Netherlands that far-right anti-EU nationalists are predicted to score well in.
Elections in France and Germany later in the year are also keeping investors on edge, with populists in both countries threatening the status quo.
In early European trade London and Paris rose 0.1 per cent while Frankfurt was flat.
- Key figures around 0800 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 per cent at 19,609.50 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 23,827.95 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 per cent at 3239.33 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 per cent at 7,374.34
Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.0645 from US$1.0654
Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.2143 from US$1.2224
Dollar/yen: UP at ¥115.00 from ¥114.84
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN eight cents at US$48.32 per barrel
Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN five cents at US$51.30
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 per cent at 20,881.48 (close)