Asian stocks decline ahead of Fed meeting

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks declined Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of this week's meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve for possible insights into the state of global growth and future Fed moves.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6 percent to 2,842.70 points and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 20,343.06. Sydney's S&P ASX 200 fell 1.3 percent to 5,119.00 and Taiwan also declined. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2 percent to 17,207.93 and Seoul's Kospi was almost unchanged at 1,971.02. Benchmarks in Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines rose.

WATCHING THE FED: The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee meets Tuesday and Wednesday. Investors don't expect a rate hike but are watching for indications of possible future Fed moves. In December the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, but it left them unchanged in January.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The most anticipated item on the U.S. economic calendar this week is the FOMC meeting, even though policy will almost certainly be left on hold. With no change in rates the focus will be entirely on forward guidance," said Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics in a report.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks barely budged as declines by energy companies were offset by gains for hotels and travel-related companies. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.82 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,229.13. The S&P 500 lost 2.55 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,019.64. The Nasdaq composite index gained 1.81 points to 4,750.28.

STARWOOD IN PLAY: Starwood Hotels jumped after a consortium led by China's Anbang Insurance Group offered to buy the hotel chain for $14 billion. Last year Marriott International agreed to buy Starwood for $12.2 billion. Starwood said it will examine the new offer. Its stock gained $5.51, or 7.8 percent, to $75.93. Marriott stock rose $2.04, or 3 percent, to $70.93. It will get a $400 million payment if Starwood backs out of their agreement. The news lifted other travel-related companies.

GLOBAL RALLY: Stocks in Europe rose after the eurozone had its biggest monthly increase in industrial production since 2009. Germany's DAX rose 1.6 percent. France's CAC 40 added 0.3 percent while Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.6 percent.

CURRENCY: The dollar slipped to 113.63 from 113.79 yen. The euro gained to $1.1112 from Monday's $1.1105.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 19 cents to $36.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.32 on Monday to close at $37.18. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 32 cents to $39.21 per barrel in London. On Monday, the contract declined 86 cents to $39.53.