Fed meeting, oil prices, Russia-Ukraine tensions

SINGAPORE — Asia markets traded mixed on Wednesday, after U.S. equities tumbled overnight in another volatile session as investors await the Fed meeting statement later stateside. Oil and gold prices also jumped on Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.13%, while the Shanghai composite was up 0.14%, and the Shenzhen component inched down 0.17% after earlier gains.

Chinese tech stocks recovered slightly after losses the day before, with Tencent rising 0.69%, and JD up 1.28%. The Hang Seng Tech index pared some earlier gains, last trading 0.74% higher.

Meanwhile, embattled property developer Evergrande is reportedly set to hold a call with investors together with its financial advisors, Reuters reported, citing sources. That would be Evergrande’s first call since it defaulted on some offshore bond payments last month, Reuters said.

Evergrande shares last rose 1.15%.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.17%, while the Topix inched up marginally.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.18%. Singapore’s Straits Times index jumped 0.86%.

Markets in Australia and India are closed for holidays on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its global growth forecast for this year as rising Covid-19 cases, supply chain disruptions and higher inflation hamper economic recovery. It said in a report published Tuesday that it expects global gross domestic product to weaken from 5.9% in 2021 to 4.4% in 2022 — with this year’s figure being half a percentage point lower than previously estimated.

Investors look ahead to Fed meeting conclusion

Markets will be looking ahead to the Fed’s conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday, where it’s expected to issue a statement signaling a rate hike as soon as March and more policy tightening on the table to address high inflation.

Ahead of the Fed meeting statement, stocks stateside tumbled following a volatile session on Monday.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down Tuesday, shedding 67.77 points, or 0.2%, to close at 34,297.73. The index swung from a nearly 819-point deficit at its lows to a roughly 226-point rally at its highs during the session. The S&P 500 dipped 1.2% to 4,356.45. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 2.3% to 13,539.30.

Oil, gold prices jump on Russia-Ukraine tensions

Elsewhere, geopolitical tensions continued to rattle investors as Western allies prepared for some kind of military confrontation, getting troops in place in the event that Russia does invade Ukraine.

Oil prices rose over 2% on Tuesday on concerns that supplies could become tight due to those Ukraine-Russia tensions, among other factors.

U.S. crude was down 0.46% to $85.22 during Asia trading hours, while Brent fell 0.29% to $87.94 per barrel.

Gold prices also jumped to a more than two-month high overnight over the geopolitical tensions, with spot gold hitting its highest since Nov. 19 at $1,852.65. During Asia hours on Wednesday morning, spot gold was last at $1,846.

“Gold is rallying as investors run to safety over fears the Fed will aggressively tighten policy and as the list of geopolitical risks continues to grow:  The Russian-Ukraine standoff will remain a tense situation for the foreseeable future, North Korea may resume nuclear tests, and Iran nuclear talks are approaching a decisive moment,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at foreign exchange trading firm Oanda.


The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 95.961, continuing to rise from earlier levels of around 95.8.

Kathy Lien of 60 Second Investor said that the path of U.S. monetary tightening, if aggressive, could set the pace for the dollar to strengthen.

“If Powell confirms that rate hikes will begin in March and suggests that they need to aggressively control inflation with more than 4 rounds of tightening, the U.S. dollar should soar against all of the major currencies,” she said in a note. “However anything short of that could trigger a relief rally in equities and currencies that eases demand for U.S. dollars.”

In other currencies, the Japanese yen traded at 113.85 per dollar, while the Australian dollar was at $0.7158, strengthening from around $0.714 earlier.

— CNBC’s Karen Gilchrist contributed to this report.

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