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Asian Shares Mixed Despite Dovish Fed

asian mixed 18mar21 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as Treasury yields climbed despite the Federal Reserve's dovish monetary policy announcement.

The Fed reiterated its accommodative monetary policy and projected the U.S. economy to grow 6.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in four decades, due to the successful vaccine rollout and recent fiscal stimulus.

Chinese shares ended modestly higher as the Fed's policy statement helped ease inflation fears. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 17.52 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,463.07, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rallied 371.60 points, or 1.3 percent, to 29,405.72.

Japanese shares rose sharply after reports suggested the Bank of Japan will agree to allow yields to trade in a wider band when it ends a two-day policy meeting on Friday. The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 302.42 points, or 1 percent, to 30,216.75, while the broader Topix closed 1.2 percent higher at 2,008.51.

Panasonic rose over 1 percent after the firm said it will sell two European plants that produce disposable consumer batteries to German asset management group Aurelius.

Toshiba advanced 1.5 percent after a landmark vote to investigate the fairness of voting at the 2020 annual shareholders' meeting.

Meanwhile, Z Holdings gave up 1.6 percent after reports that its group online chat firm Line let Chinese engineers access to customer data.

Australian stocks fell notably amid weakness in the tech and industrial spaces. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 49.30 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,745.90 despite strong jobs data, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.8 percent in February. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 44.40 points, or 0.6 percent, at 7,003.60.

Afterpay and Nearmap fell about 1.8 percent in the tech sector. Toll road operator Transurban Group lost 2.1 percent.

Gold miners Evolution, Northern Star Resources and Newcrest surged 3-4 percent as gold hits its highest level in over two weeks on a softer dollar.

Adherium shares plunged 9.5 percent after the healthcare firm sealed an $18 million raise with commitments from existing shareholders including Trudell Medical to buy shares at 1.5 cents each.

Seoul stocks advanced as rate hike worries ebbed following the Fed's policy announcement. The benchmark Kospi rose 18.51 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,066.01.

Auto and tech stocks were among the top gainers. Hyundai Motor rose 0.9 percent, Samsung Electronics gained 0.7 percent and SK Hynix added 1.4 percent.

New Zealand shares fell sharply after government data showed the country's GDP contracted 1.0 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2020 - missing forecasts for an increase of 0.1 percent - following the downwardly revised 13.9 percent increase in the previous three months.

On a yearly basis, GDP sank 0.9 percent - again missing expectations for an increase of 0.5 percent.

The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 126.07 points, or 1 percent, to 12,496.14. Utilities continued to see selling pressure, with Meridian Energy falling 4.7 percent and Contact Energy losing 2 percent.

U.S. stocks rose overnight and yields on longer-maturity U.S. debt retreated from more than one-year high after the Federal Reserve forecast stronger economic growth and higher inflation this year but indicated it expects to keep interest rates at near-zero levels through 2023.

The central bank also reiterated it plans to continue purchasing bonds at a rate of at least $120 billion per month until "substantial further progress" has been made toward its policy goals.

The Dow rose 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent to reach new record closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index edged up 0.4 percent.

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