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Asian stocks muted before Fed meeting; KOSPI outperforms on AI cheer

Published 03/19/2024, 11:09 PM
© Reuters.
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Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks steadied in cautious trade on Wednesday as markets awaited more cues on U.S. interest rates from the conclusion of a Federal Reserve meeting later in the day.

Regional markets were cheered by the Bank of Japan striking a largely dovish chord on Tuesday, even as it raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years. But Japanese markets were closed on Wednesday, limiting Asian trading volumes.

Wall Street indexes closed higher overnight on some strength in technology and energy stocks. But U.S. stock index futures fell slightly in Asian trade, amid growing anxiety over the Fed. 

KOSPI outperforms as Samsung rallies on Nvidia AI partnership

South Korea’s KOSPI was the best performer in Asia, rising 1.1% on a 4.4% spike in Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (KS:005930).  

The electronics conglomerate surged after the Nikkei reported that NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) was considering using Samsung’s high bandwidth memory chips in its artificial intelligence processors. 

SK Hynix Inc (KS:000660), which currently makes the most advanced HBM chips, slid nearly 3% on the prospect of more competition from Samsung. 

Broader Asian stocks muted amid Fed caution

Barring the KOSPI, other Asian stock indexes largely tread water on Wednesday, with investors keeping away from big bets ahead of the Fed.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes were flat, as was Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, after the People’s Bank of China kept its benchmark loan prime rate unchanged, as widely expected. 

Australia’s ASX 200 rose slightly, extending gains after the Reserve Bank of Australia struck a less hawkish tone than markets were expecting on Tuesday. 

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly positive open. The Nifty and the BSE Sensex 30 were set to rebound after falling over 1% each on Tuesday.

Markets were focused largely on the conclusion of a Fed meeting later on Wednesday. While the central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged, any signals on its plans for interest rate cuts in 2024 will be closely watched.

Focus in particular is on the Fed’s policy statement, as well as a press conference with Chair Jerome Powell after the meeting.

Markets were particularly wary of any hawkish signals after hotter-than-expected inflation readings for the past two months.

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