HONG KONG (AP) — Japanese stocks rose Wednesday as investors bet on another shot of stimulus from the country's central bank while other Asian benchmarks slipped ahead of U.S. growth figures and the Fed's latest policy decision.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.6 percent to 18,892.48 while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.3 percent 2,038.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5 percent to 23,037.65 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China retreated 0.5 percent to 3,418.55. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.1 percent to 5,340.10. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also fell.
RATE DEBATE: Investors were avoiding risk as they await the Federal Reserve's latest interest rate decision due at the end of its two-day meeting that began Tuesday. Expectations that the Fed will raise rates this year have diminished amid concern about a slower than expected U.S. economic recovery. However many investors also would prefer to see uncertainty resolved over when rates will be lifted from record lows. In contrast, hopes are rising that the Bank of Japan will expand its monetary stimulus when it holds its latest policy Friday as it tries to revive a stagnant economy.
US GROWTH: The U.S. economy has resembled an especially dizzying roller-coaster ride this year, with a hurtling dive followed by a steep climb leading to yet another slide. On Thursday, when the government issues its first of three estimates of growth in the July-September quarter, it's expected to show an economy slumping from global weakness and reduced corporate stockpiling.
EXPERT INSIGHT: "Yesterday's mood of caution is likely to continue as potential buyers wait on statements by the US Fed and Bank of Japan," said Ric Spooner of CMC Markets in Sydney. "Markets are now anticipating that both the Fed and Bank of England could push out the timing of rate increases, while the Bank of Japan will add to its stimulus providing valuation support for equity markets."
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks were little changed as the Fed meeting got underway. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to 17,581.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 0.3 percent to 2,065.89. The Nasdaq composite declined 0.1 percent to 5,030.15.
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude rose 5 cents to $43.25 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 78 cents to close at $43.20 in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 2 cents to $46.83 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 120.38 yen from 120.43 in the previous day's trading. The euro slipped to $1.1035 from $1.1039.