Asian stocks meander, dollar higher after Fed confirms end to stimulus

HONG KONG – Asian stock markets meandered Thursday while the dollar strengthened against other currencies after the Federal Reserve said it will end its stimulus program, as many had expected.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 per cent to 15,636.60 while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5 per cent to 1,950.26. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3 per cent to 23,738.79. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed at 2,372.46. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 per cent to 5,468.30.

STIMULUS OVER: The Federal Reserve confirmed the end of its $4 trillion bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, noting that the U.S. economy no longer needs as much assistance. It reiterated that “considerable time” was needed before short-term borrowing rates are raised from near zero. But it also noted the improving job market in the world’s biggest economy, signalling that an eventual interest rate hike is on the cards.

THE QUOTE: “While ‘considerable time’ was kept, the Fed also inserted an escape clause, citing that it might raise rates sooner than anticipated if progress is faster than expected, and vice-versa. Thus, markets began to bring back pricing of the first rate hike back to June, and the U.S. dollar also rallied across the board,” Mizuho Bank’s Chang Wei Liang said in a research note.

WALL STREET: U.S. benchmarks ended slightly lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average dipping 0.2 per cent to 16,974.31 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 0.1 per cent to 1,982.30. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.3 per cent to 4,549.23.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.05 yen from 108.77 in late trading Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.2624 from $1.2639.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil slipped 28 cents to $81.92 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 78 cents to settle at $82.20 on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price oil in international markets, slipped 10 cents to $87.02 in London.