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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Ahead Of Fed Decision


Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday following the lackluster cues overnight from Wall Street amid worries about U.S.-China trade talks, after a report by Bloomberg said U.S. negotiators are concerned that China is pushing back against American demands. Investors are also cautious as they look ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy decision due later in the day.

The Australian market is modestly lower. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 6.60 points or 0.11 percent to 6,178.20, after touching a low of 6,160.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 9.30 points or 0.15 percent to 6,267.30. Australian markets fluctuated before finishing marginally lower on Tuesday.

The major miners are weak after the price of iron ore dipped overnight. Fortescue Metals is falling more than 4 percent, Rio Tinto is losing almost 2 percent and BHP Group is declining 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are mixed despite a modest increase in gold prices. Newcrest Mining is down 0.6 percent, while Evolution Mining is adding 0.3 percent.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent, Oil Search is rising 0.4 percent and Santos is higher by 0.6 percent after crude oil prices edged lower overnight.

The big four banks are mixed. ANZ Banking is up 0.2 percent and National Australia Bank is adding 0.5 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is down 0.1 percent and Westpac is lower by 0.3 percent.

Executive director Marcus Blackmore will become acting CEO of Blackmores, the company founded by his father, while the supplement maker searches for a new chief executive. The company's shares are advancing 1 percent.

Healthscope is adding 0.2 percent after the private hospital operator said its shareholders will vote in May or June whether to accept a takeover offer from Canadian investment firm Brookfield.

On the economic front, Australia will see February data for the Westpac leading economic index and for skilled vacancies today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S dollar on Wednesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7087, down from $0.7103 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is declining. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 49.77 points or 0.23 percent to 21,517.08, after touching a low of 21,513.88 earlier. Japanese shares edged lower on Tuesday.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Sony is losing more than 3 percent, Panasonic is declining almost 1 percent and Canon is edging down 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.3 percent.

In the tech sector, Tokyo Electron is adding 0.4 percent and Advantest is rising 0.3 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda is adding 0.6 percent and Toyota is up 0.7 percent.

In the banking space, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 0.2 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is down 0.2 percent, while Japan Petroleum is higher by 0.2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is rising 4 percent, while Unitika and Denka Co. are advancing almost 2 percent each. On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing 4 percent.

On the economic front, members of the Bank of Japan's Monetary Policy Board said that the country's economy continues to expand at a moderate pace, minutes from its January 23 monetary policy meeting has revealed. Annual inflation is expected to continue to increase gradually towards 2 percent, the bank said - and the BoJ is likely to keep interest rates low for an extended period of time to help facilitate that.

Japan also will see February figures for machine tool orders and convenience store sales today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 111 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia and Hong Kong are also lower, while Shanghai, Taiwan and Indonesia are modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday after seeing early strength, partly reflecting continued optimism about U.S.-China trade talks, which has contributed to a recent upward trend on Wall Street. However, the positive sentiment was partly offset after a report from Bloomberg said U.S. negotiators are concerned that China is pushing back against American demands. Traders also looked ahead to the announcement of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy decision on Wednesday.

While the Nasdaq inched up 9.47 points or 0.1 percent to 7,723.95, the Dow slipped 26.72 points or 0.1 percent to 25,887.38 and the S&P 500 edged down 0.37 point or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,832.57.

The major European markets moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Despite posting their highest level for the year, crude oil futures settled marginally lower on Tuesday. WTI crude for April ended down $0.06 or 0.1 percent at $59.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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