Most Asian Stocks Retreat as Investors Scour U.S. Fed Minutes

  • Slump in energy companies offsets gain in health-care shares
  • Fed officials maintain gradual interest-rate increase outlook

Reading Between the Fed's Lines

Most Asian equities retreated as energy shares fell and investors absorbed details of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting.

The MSCI AC Asia Pacific Index lost 0.2 percent as of 4:35 p.m. in Hong Kong, swinging between losses and gains earlier. The benchmark Asian stocks gauge has declined 0.4 percent this week. Energy companies were the biggest drag to the gauge as JXTG Holdings Inc. dropped 2.1 percent in Tokyo, offsetting gains in health-care stocks. Equities from Japan to Singapore and Australia fell, while those in India, Indonesia and the Philippines advanced.

Oil recovered some losses after slumping toward $45 a barrel and snapping eight days of gains. The Fed minutes signaled that policy makers are lacking a consensus about when to shrink its balance sheet and how to approach strategy in a time of low inflation.

“With the mixed tone from the minutes and the essential delay to the announcement of balance sheet reduction timing, there is no surprise why we are seeing the muted reaction from the markets,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Asia Pte. “The Fed’s rhetoric still points towards confidence in economic conditions, and a third rate hike this year is still very much expected even as the timing remains in question.”

Fosun International Ltd. pared declines of as much as 4.5 percent in Hong Kong after the company’s group quashed speculation over the chairman’s whereabouts and said operations are normal. Noble Group Ltd. surged 32 percent in Singapore amid speculation that an investor may be building a stake.

Summary

  • Topix index -0.2%, Nikkei 225 Index -0.4%
    • Japanese Stocks Fall as Yen’s Appreciation Weighs on Exporters
  • Hang Seng Index -0.2%, Hang Seng China Enterprises Index -0.3 percent and Shanghai Composite Index +0.2%, Taiex -0.4%
  • Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index -0.1%, New Zealand’s NZX 50 +0.5%
    • Short Sellers Burnt Again as Travel Agency’s Shares Take Off
  • Kospi little changed
    • Trump Faces the Limits of China Strategy After North Korean ICBM
  • Straits Times Index -0.7%, FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index -0.1, Philippine Stock Exchange PSEi Index +0.5%, Jakarta Composite Index +0.4%, S&P BSE Sensex Index +0.6%, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Stock Index +0.6%
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