Asian stocks mixed as Fed steers clear of signaling rate cut

Trader Gregory Rowe laughs with fellow traders as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street after several big U.S. companies reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Andrew Silverman, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street after several big U.S. companies reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Specialist John Alatzas, left, and trader Michael Milano work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street after several big U.S. companies reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Peter Tuchman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street after several big U.S. companies reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Steven Kaplan works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street after several big U.S. companies reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

SINGAPORE — Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate intact and steered clear of suggesting that a cut was possible this year. Trading was light with markets in Japan and mainland China closed.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% to 29,829.76 while Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.6% to 6,340.20. The Kospi in South Korea was 0.3% higher at 2,209.33. Stocks rose in Taiwan but fell in Singapore and Indonesia.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate — which determines the cost of borrowing for individuals and businesses — in a range of 2.25% to 2.5% as expected.

Still, some traders had hoped the Fed would signal a rate cut to lift persistently low inflation to its 2% target rate. The Fed's preferred 12-month inflation barometer is running at about 1.5%.

Chairman Jerome Powell steered clear of this at a news conference. "The committee is comfortable with our current policy stance," he said.

Powell added that current inflation readings may be transitory and not fully indicative of real-world price increases.

"Equity markets were looking for so much more from the Fed and were shocked when Chair Powell said the Fed did not see a convincing case to move rates in either direction," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

Over on Wall Street, stocks closed lower after climbing earlier in the day on strong earnings reports.

The broad S&P 500 index retreated 0.8% to 2,923.73 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6% to 26,430.14 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.6% to 8,049.64. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks shed 0.9% to 1,576.38.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 14 cents to $63.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 31 cents to settle at $63.60 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 19 cents to $71.99 per barrel. It added 12 cents to close at $72.18 per barrel in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.54 Japanese yen from 111.38 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1207 from $1.1198.

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