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Asian stock markets drift ahead of Fed statement

July 31, 2013

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets drifted Wednesday as investors waited for the Federal Reserve’s latest assessment of the U.S. economy.

The Fed is not expected to announce any big changes when it releases an updated policy statement Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting. However, investors are anxious for clues about when the Fed might start scaling back its monetary stimulus.

The Fed is buying $85 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds every month to spur growth and lending. While long-term interest rates have been held near record lows, the program has also drawn investors away from bonds and into higher yielding investments like stocks and commodities. Recent hints that the Fed might start scaling back its stimulus program have sent stocks reeling.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, which endured sharp swings earlier in the week, was down 0.8 percent to 13,759.45. The Tokyo benchmark closed down 3.3 percent on Monday and then recovered about halfway Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent to 22,015.45. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.1 percent to 1,914.69. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1 percent to 5,094.90. Benchmarks in mainland China rose while Singapore and Taiwan fell.

Investors are also waiting for the U.S. government to report its first estimate of economic growth for the second quarter. And on Friday, the Labor Department publishes its monthly jobs survey.

On Wall Street on Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 36.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 15,521.97. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 6.32 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,685.33. The Nasdaq composite index declined 14.02 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,599.14.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was up 32 cents to $103.40 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.47 to close at $103.08 on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3263 from $1.3259 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 97.99 yen from 98.06 yen.


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