Asian markets drop with Fed, earnings and Biden in focus

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Markets dipped in Asia on Tuesday ahead of a big week of key events including the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, Joe Biden's State of the Union address and earnings from tech titans.

While trading floors are geared up for a rocket-fuelled surge in economic activity in the second half of the year and into the next thanks to vaccinations and the easing of lockdowns, investors are in wait-and-see mode for now.

The Fed's gathering, which concludes Wednesday, is broadly expected to see it reassert its pledge to maintain ultra-loose policy until its goals on unemployment and inflation are met, though its statement will be parsed for an idea about the state of the US economy.

The central bank's meetings are a crucial focus of investor interest as they continue to fret that the expected strong recovery will send prices soaring and force policymakers to raise the record low interest rates that have been a pillar of the global rally.

"From what I can tell, the Fed is very close to meeting its objectives, but remains committed to keeping key short-term interest rates at or near zero through 2023," said markets strategist Louis Navellier.

"The truth of the matter is the Fed can never raise key short-term interest rates much, otherwise it risks blowing up the federal government's budget deficit, which is expected to cross above $30 trillion soon. So we will likely remain in an ultralow interest rate environment for the rest of our lifetimes!"

Hilary Kramer, of Kramer Capital Research, was also upbeat.

"I am a bull," she told Bloomberg TV. Fed boss Jerome Powell "is going to make sure he keeps rates low, he's going to lag behind rather than trying to get ahead of inflation".

The release of earnings from Wall Street giants including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google-parent Alphabet will be closely watched, with forecasts on the strong side.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both ended Monday at record highs.

But Asia struggled to follow suit with most markets swinging in and out of positive territory. Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei and Manila were all in the red but Singapore and Jakarta edged up.

Oil prices edged up after taking a hefty hit in recent days on worries about the impact on demand from the frightening spread of coronavirus in major consumer India, with a meeting of OPEC and other major producers also in focus.

Wednesday also sees Biden make his first State of the Union address to Congress, during which he could unveil a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that would provide national child care, paid family leave and free community college, paid for with higher taxes on the rich.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 29,047.00 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.3 percent at 28,864.10

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,417.26

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2070 from $1.2086 at 2130 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3877 from $1.3893

Euro/pound: UP at 86.97 pence from 86.94 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.36 yen from 108.11 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $62.10 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.3 percent at $65.84 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 33,981.57 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 6,963.12 (close)