TOKYO — Asian shares meandered Wednesday as markets awaited the outcomes of monetary policy meetings in the U.S. and Japan. Japan’s benchmark fell after August trade data came in weaker than expected.
KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent to 16,411.97 and the Hang Seng of Hong Kong fell 0.1 percent to 23,516.54. The Shanghai Composite index also fell, 0.1 percent, to 3,021.89. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 5,327.90 and South Korea’s Kospi was almost flat, at 2,026.56. Shares were higher in Taiwan but mixed in Southeast Asia.
BANK OF JAPAN WATCH: Japan’s central bank was due to release a policy statement at midday Wednesday. Analysts increasingly have speculated the bank will adapt its asset purchases to allow interest rates for long-term Japanese government bonds to rise somewhat, while keeping rates for short term assets near zero. Prospects for a shift further into negative territory for the BOJ’s key policy rate as a way to spur banks to lend more appeared uncertain.
FED TO FOLLOW: Investors doubt the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates Wednesday, but are watching closely for hints about future moves from the Fed’s statement and a press conference led by Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “The Fed, until they raise rates, are going to be the primary focus of the markets,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “The only reason people may take their eye off of that is the election.”
WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 9.79 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,129.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.64 points to 2,139.76. The Nasdaq composite picked up 6.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,241.35.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 78 cents to $44.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 19 cents to $44.05 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 58 cents to $46.46 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 101.52 yen from 101.62 yen in the previous session. The euro was almost flat at $1.1154.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed to this report.