Asian stocks pause as Fed-fueled rally fades

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — A rally in Asian stock markets paused Friday, as enthusiasm faded over the Federal Reserve's hint that interest rate increases will be gradual.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.5 percent to 19,770.58, while South Korea's Kospi was flat at 1,989.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.2 percent to 22,456.97. The Shanghai Composite Index in China rose 0.1 percent to 3,619.65. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,250.80.

FED FOCUS: The euphoria in financial markets over the Federal Reserve's minutes that were released Wednesday is fading. The report showed that Fed officials agreed that a rate hike is firmly on the cards for next month and that the pace of rate increases after that will be gradual. The news gave a strong boost to stock markets around the world by easing uncertainty in the minds of investors who have been fixated on when the Fed would raise its policy rate. It has been at a record low since the 2008 global financial crisis.

EXPERT INSIGHT: "Equities globally have responded positively to this macro picture as it still collectively shows that central bank policy can and will alter markets and economies," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG. "However, what would be a dire market-mover would be if the Fed breaks its December mantra and holds off," Lucas wrote in a commentary. Such a move would result in a big sell-off as investors lose confidence in its statements, he said.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended little changed on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell less than 0.1 percent to close at 17,732.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped 0.1 percent to 2,081.24 while the Nasdaq composite edged down less than 0.1 percent to 5,073.64.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell was up 21 cents to $41.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 23 cents to settle at $41.72 a barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 13 cents to $44.31 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 122.83 yen from 122.89 in the previous trading session. The euro edged down to $1.0717 from $1.0723.