Dec 16, 2014 11:32 PM

Asian stocks mixed after Wall Street slide

The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday after Wall Street slid and oil prices tumbled while investors waited for a U.S. Federal Reserve statement on monetary policy.

KEEPING SCORE: China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6 percent to 3,040.88 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent to 16,825.21. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.6 percent at 22,538. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila declined while Sydney and New Zealand rose. Seoul was little changed.

FED MEETING: The Federal Reserve was due to end a two-day meeting on Wednesday with a statement that, despite turmoil in Russia, was expected to drop a promise to keep interest rates low for a "considerable time." Analysts expected no immediate change in monetary policy, which the Fed has said would return to normal sometime next year following its history-making stimulus in the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis.

THE QUOTE: "There is a lot for investors to digest at the moment but the dominant theme is nervous trading in emerging markets as the Federal Reserve is tipped to switch to a hawkish bias," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in a report. "While the US economy has been progressing significantly, the challenge will be how to proceed given the backdrop of turmoil in the rest of the world. The US has been immune to events abroad so far but perhaps this will worry the Fed enough to exercise caution."

RUBLE ROCKED: The ruble dropped 20 percent under pressure from lower oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's conflict with Ukraine. That was despite a decision by Russia's central bank to hike its benchmark interest rate to support the ruble. "The end is near for Russia's economic and financial stability," said Carl B. Weinberg of High Frequency Economics in a report. Weinberg warned foreign creditors might face a wave of defaults by Russian borrowers. Apple Inc. halted sales in Russia, blaming the financial turmoil.

OIL SLUMP: Crude prices fell further from already-low levels, hammering stocks of energy producers. Stock markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi lost 7 percent on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia's benchmark fell 7.3 percent on expectations governments will be forced to cut spending, possibly fueling social tensions. Benchmark U.S. crude was down $1.20 to $54.73 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 2 cents the previous session to $55.93.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 ended Tuesday with a loss of 16.89 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,972.74. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 111.97 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,068.87, while the Nasdaq composite dropped 57.32 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,547.83.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 117.04 yen from 117.07 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2491 from the previous day's $1.2502.


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