Shares fell as FED sends mixed signals to market

TOKYO (AP) — Shares fell in Asia on Thursday, taking cues from Wall Street’s overnight losses after the Federal Reserve signaled it was open to the possibility of an interest rate hike in September. Energy stocks fell as the price of oil plummeted.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.6 percent to 20,100.14 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.4 percent to 22,839.07. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.9 percent to 1,922.43 and the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.4 percent at 3,779.10. Australia’s S&P ASX/200 also dropped, losing 1.4 percent to 5,305.30. Shares also fell in Southeast Asia.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July meeting gave no specific clues on whether the central bank’s officials were poised to raise interest rates in September. However, Fed officials appeared to move closer to raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade despite concern over the risks to the U.S. economy from China’s slowdown. At the same time, policy makers also expressed concerns that given recent drops in commodity prices inflation is still too low to justify an interest rate increase.

ANALYST VIEW: “The Fed appears to be heading towards a rate hike and this against the backdrop of deflationary forces globally is creating intense uncertainty,” Shane Oliver, head of investment and chief economist at AMP Capital, said in a commentary. “Investors have now grown used to near zero interest rates for more than 6 years in the U.S. and there is naturally fear that raising them will threaten the still fragile U.S. and global economies.”

CHINA: China shares lost ground after a wild ride so far this week that has raised uncertainty over regulators’ ability to limit losses. The central bank has sought to keep liquidity high through long-term credit while injecting funds into the markets.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 162.61 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,348.73. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 17.31 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,079.61 and the Nasdaq composite index lost 40.30 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,019.05.

ENERGY: Oil prices slid after U.S. government data showed inventories rose much more than expected last week. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 35 cents to $40.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.85 to $41.27 on Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 28 cents to $46.88 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed, at 123.91 yen versus Wednesday’s close of 123.93 yen. The euro rose to $1.1137 from $1.1122.

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