Asian investors tread carefully ahead of Fed decision

Asian investors tread carefully ahead of Fed decision

After months of careful guidance, the Federal Reserve signalled on Wednesday it was to begin the mammoth task of unwinding its balance sheet in October, while also signalling that it still expects to raise interest rates one more time this year.

USA stock indexes were drifting between small gains and losses in afternoon trading Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's latest economic and interest rate policy update.

Though inflation remains stubbornly below the Fed's 2- percent target rate, a recent data showed uptick in domestic consumer prices, which raised the chances of a December rate hike by more than 50 percent.

ANALYST TAKE: "Details on balance sheet reduction will be of interest, but crucially the committee will extend its rate outlook in 2020, and this could give us a good sense of the end-point for the interest rate in this current tightening cycle", said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will hold a press conference half an hour later. On Monday, shares of Citigroup (C) broke above a 69.96 flat-base buy point, often a precursor of further near-term gains, to hit its highest level since January 2009.

"It's a market functioning issue", said Blake Gwinn, an interest rate strategist at NatWest Markets in Stamford, Connecticut. Zions Bancorporation climbed 70 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $45.11.

The Fed statement also sent the dollar higher against other currencies.

The rose 0.22% to trade at 91.81 while the rose sharply to 2.264.

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By paring its holdings the Fed may make it harder to acquire highly sought after bonds and reduce liquidity in the funding markets, sparking greater market volatility and making it more expensive to short Treasuries.

Australia's main index added 0.6 per cent while Japan's Nikkei was closed for a holiday.

Shares of mining company Sibanye-Stillwater Gold plummeted after announcing it would issue convertible bonds worth $450 million to refinance a loan partly used to fund its acquisition of US-based Stillwater previous year. In August, the USA jobless rate was 4.4 percent, just above the 16-year low it touched in May and July.

Following the announcement, bond prices slumped, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 2.27 percent from 2.25 percent late Tuesday. The U.S. Federal Reserve published its updated economic projections and as expected kept the interest rate unchanged at 100-125 basis points.

Notably, the Fed on Wednesday lowered its long-term forecast for the federal funds rate to 2.8 percent, down from 3 percent in its June forecast. United States crude eased 1 cent to $49.88 a barrel. Oil prices were higher.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) report of weekly U.S. crude inventories showed a higher than expected rise at 4.6 million barrels.

In a welcome sign for anyone looking for a job, the Fed also expects American companies to keep hiring and unemployment to fall further to 4.1 percent next year.