Asian stock markets were mixed on Wednesday, as investors awaited the outcome of the Federal Reserve''s highly anticipated policy meeting later in the day.
Shares in Japan outperformed the region after data showed exports rose 18.4% in November, beating expectations of 17.9%, and aided by a weaker yen.
During late Asian trade, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index eased up 0.4%, Australia’s ASX/200 Index ended 0.14% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index closed 2.02% higher.
Market players turned their attention to the outcome of the Fed’s policy meeting later Wednesday, amid ongoing speculation over whether the central bank will announce any reduction to its stimulus program.
The Fed’s stimulus program is viewed by many investors as a key driver in boosting the price of global equities.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei rallied to a one-week high as the yen weakened after showed that the trade deficit widened to JPY1.29 trillion in November, increasing 35% from the same month last year as imports rose 21.1% and exports increased by 18.4%.
Market sentiment was further boosted amid speculation Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce pro-growth structural reforms in a speech on Thursday.
USD/JPY rose to hit a daily high of 103.02, moving off the previous session’s low of 102.49. A weaker yen increases the value of overseas income at Japanese companies when repatriated, improving the outlook for export earnings.
Automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda saw shares rise 1.65%, 2.9% and 3.05% respectively, while Fanuc advanced 3.7%.
Index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank saw shares climb 2.8% and 1.8% respectively.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng eased up modestly in cautious trade as investors readjusted positions ahead of the outcome of the Fed’s policy meeting.
Shares in the financial sector were higher, with China Construction Bank shares rising 0.7%, while China Minsheng Bank and China CITIC Bank gained 0.8% and 1.7% respectively.
Elsewhere, in Australia, the ASX/200 Index ended lower as losses in the financial sector weighed on the benchmark index.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.35%, while Westpac Banking Group declined 0.8%.
Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a higher open.
The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.4% at the open, France’s CAC 40 futures added 0.4%, London’s FTSE 100 futures indicated a gain of 0.4%, while Germany''s DAX futures pointed to an increase of 0.4%.
The Ifo Institute is to publish a report on German business climate later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, U.S. equity markets also pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.3%, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.3% rise, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated an increase of 0.3%.
The U.S. is to release data on building permits and housing starts.
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