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Asian Stocks Pare Early Gains Ahead Of Fed Meeting


Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Tuesday, paring some early gains, as investors pinned hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve will announce fresh stimulus measures ahead of the expiry of its Operation Twist bond-buying program scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The Fed's two-day policy meeting begins today, with analysts expecting the central bank to announce monetary stimulus package of continued bond purchases of $45 billion per month after its meeting. Commodities were little changed, while the euro strengthened despite concerns over Italy.

Japanese shares moved in a narrow range before ending a tad lower as investors locked in some profits ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting. Other factors such as the December 16 general election and the next BOJ meeting due on 19th and 20th also weighed on the market. The Nikkei fell 0.1 percent in light trading, while the Topix index dropped 0.3 percent.

Technology company Advantest fell 1.3 percent on profit taking, automaker Honda Motor slipped 1.2 percent and utilities Kansai Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power lost over 4 percent each, while heavyweight Fast Retailing rose 1.1 percent, helped by expectations of strong winter sales during a cold snap. Shares of property company Daiwa House Industry also added a percent on expectations that the firm will benefit from further monetary easing after the general election.

China's Shanghai Composite index retreated 0.4 percent after data released by the People's Bank of China showed Chinese banks extended 522.9 billion yuan ($83.9 billion) in new loans last month, up from 505.2 billion yuan in October, but well shy of forecasts of 550 billion yuan. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, however, ended a choppy session 0.2 percent higher.

Australian shares rose to fresh 2012 highs, led by miners on hopes of fresh U.S. stimulus. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent to 3,576, its highest closing level since July last year. However, volume remained rather thin heading into the Christmas break. Global miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gained 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, following an upswing in iron ore prices on Chinese demand hopes. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group soared about 4 percent, but gold miner Newcrest fell over a percent.

Lend Lease advanced 2.2 percent after a consortium led by the company won a bid for a $1 billion revamp of Sydney's Darling Harbour convention centre and entertainment centres. Downer EDI soared 5.2 percent after the engineering firm said it reached a negotiated settlement over a tunnel contract in Singapore. Among the major banks, ANZ, Westpac, NAB and Commonwealth rose between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent.

On the macroeconomic front, the latest survey results released by National Australia Bank showed that business confidence in Australia worsened in November, with the headline index falling to minus 9, its lowest level since April 2009.

Seoul shares posted modest gains on foreign fund buying amid expectations of further stimulus measures from the Federal Reserve to bolster growth and add liquidity to financial markets. The Kospi average rose 0.4 percent. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell a percent on profit taking after climbing to a fresh record high in the previous session.

New Zealand shares edged lower, dragged down by Warehouse Group on brokerage downgrades after it decided to buy Noel Leeming for $65 million from Gresham Private Equity. Shares of the biggest retailer on the exchange retreated 2.6 percent, while the benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 0.1 percent. Gold miner OceanaGold, online auction site Trade Me and carpet maker Cavalier all fell about 2 percent each, while shares of Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, rose 1.4 percent to a 17-month high, buoyed by data showing signs of strength in the housing market.

Australian food ingredient maker Goodman Fielder rallied 3.7 percent and outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Kathmandu Holdings jumped 4.8 percent. New Zealand Oil & Gas rose 1.2 percent after it won a bid for new oil and gas permits in the Taranaki basin.

Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was down half a percent, tumbling nearly 300 points from the day's high, after both houses of Parliament adjourned before taking up the Banking Amendment Bill and data released by the Director General of Foreign Trade showed India's exports contracted for the seventh month in a row in November due to slowdown in demand in developed markets. The markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks rose slightly overnight, as investors reacted to upbeat data from China and news of political uncertainty in Italy. Traders also kept an eye on developments in Washington, where lawmakers continue to struggle to reach an agreement to avoid the looming fiscal cliff. The Dow edged up 0.1 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 inched up marginally.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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