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Asian markets directionless after FOMC minutes

Asian equities are mixed today after a non-descript session on Wall Street that provided no concrete direction for local markets. The S&P 500 rose just 0.15%, while the Nasdaq and Dow Jones closed almost unchanged. US index futures have risen this morning, but that has translated to an uneven performance across Asia.

The Nikkei 225 is 0.30% lower as Japanese authorities weigh widened Covid-19 restrictions. The Kospi has risen just 0.15%, while mainland China’s Shanghai Composite and CSI 300 have drifted 0.10% higher. A suitably dovish FOMC minutes report has boosted the Hang Seng by 0.80%, with cyclical sectors outperforming at the expense of tech giants.

Singapore has risen by 0.10%, with Taiwan climbing 0.20%, Kuala Lumpur increasing 0.30% and Jakarta by 0.25%. Australian markets lead the charge higher today, with rising base metal prices boosting the resource sector heavyweights in particular. That has seen the ASX 200 and All Ordinaries climb by 1.0% today, helped along by no hawkish surprises in the FOMC minutes.

Australia aside, Asian markets are very much in watching from the side-lines mode ahead of the Powell speech this evening. The refusal to get tugged along by the two-way noise on Wall Street this week is very much evident, reflecting perhaps lingering concerns about US bond yields as American data continues to surprise across the board to the upside.

United Kingdom equities may get a dose of AstraZeneca blues this afternoon after European and British medical agencies highlighted blood-clot risks from the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. The British recommendation is that alternative vaccines for Astra should be used, if possible, for those under 30 years old. This triggered sharp losses for the British pound and the UK stocks could well follow in the pound’s footsteps on Thursday.

Eurozone equity markets may also suffer, but not to the same extent as AstraZeneca vaccine alternatives start arriving in greater numbers this morning.