Stocks in Asia-Pacific mixed as Japan's exports plunge in August

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors awaited the Federal Open Market Committee’s quarterly update.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed fractionally higher at 23,475.53 while the Topix index advanced 0.21% to end its trading day at 1,644.35.

The moves came after provisional trade statistics from Japan’s Ministry of Finance released Wednesday showed the country’s exports in August falling 14.8% as compared to a year ago. That compared against a 16.1% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

Mainland Chinese stocks, on the other hand, saw losses by the afternoon. The Shanghai composite declined 0.36% to about 3,283.92 while the Shenzhen component shed 1.006% to around 13,011.28. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was little changed, as of its final hour of trading.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.31% to close at 2,435.93. Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.04% to finish its trading day at 5,956.10.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.51%.

Apple supplier shares mixed

Fed watch

Investor focus was also likely on the U.S. Federal Reserve, where the FOMC’s meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday stateside. The Federal Open Market Committee will give its quarterly update on where it sees GDP, unemployment and inflation going.

“Wednesday’s Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement is the most important event risk on this week’s calendar but many investors are wondering how much impact it will have on the US dollar,” Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in a note.

“No changes in monetary policy are expected” from the Fed, Lien said, with the “main focus” on the U.S. central bank’s economic projections and its so-called dot plot forecast of interest rate moves.

Ahead of the Fed announcement, the U.S. dollar index — which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers — was at 93.046 after an earlier high of 93.185.

Oil prices jump

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, as international benchmark Brent crude futures gained 1.9% to $41.30 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also advanced 2.25% to $39.14 per barrel.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.39 per dollar following a strengthening seen earlier this week from levels above 106 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7312 after slipping from levels above $0.733 yesterday.