Chinese investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Markets in Asia are mostly lower after a lackluster day of trading on Wall Street.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Asian markets mixed as investors look ahead to Fed report

March 20, 2019 - 2:38 am

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy statement. Fresh news on China-U.S. trade talks raised spirits, helping Chinese benchmarks to trim early losses.

The Shanghai Composite was flat at 3,090.62 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 29,399.89.

White House officials said Tuesday that top U.S. trade and economic officials will visit China late next week for another round of negotiations on their dispute over Beijing's industrial policies and other issues.

The sources, who spoke on background because they weren't authorized to comment publicly, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the delegation.

The news suggests hope for progress, albeit delayed, in the tariffs war between the two largest economies. Business lobbyists say an agreement now probably won't be reached until late April.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent to 21,608.92, while the S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.3 percent to 6,165.30. South Korea's Kospi was virtually unchanged at 2,177.10.

Shares were higher in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia but fell in Singapore.

Global investors are looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's interest rate policy update due later Wednesday. The central bank has signaled that it will be "patient" in raising interest rates.

"Against the backdrop of heightened concerns over U.S.-China trade and ahead of the Fed meeting, Asia markets may well trade cautiously once again," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. She added that "the broad sense is that regional markets will be attuned toward the Fed meeting."

The Fed has made clear that with a dimmer economic picture in both the United States and globally, it no longer sees the need to keep raising rates as it did four times in 2018. Among the key factors, besides slower growth, are President Donald Trump's trade war with China, continually low inflation levels and Prime Minister Theresa May's struggle to execute Britain's exit from the European Union.

U.S. stock indexes closed mostly lower Tuesday after a late-afternoon splash of selling erased early gains, ending a weeklong rally.

The benchmark S&P 500 ended barely lower, losing less than one point to 2,832.57, its second loss over the past seven trading days. It's still up 13 percent so far in 2019.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1 percent to 25,887.38. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.1 percent to 7,723.95, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 0.6 percent, to 1,554.99.

More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Major indexes in Europe finished higher.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.55 Japanese yen from 111.40 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1349 from $1.1351 on Tuesday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 4 cents to $59.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 9 cents to close at $59.29 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 9 cents to $67.70 a barrel.

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AP Business Writers Damien J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

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