Asia markets mostly gain on Fed clarity, oil price rise

Most Asian markets advanced Thursday as investors cheered clarity from the U.S. Federal Reserve and a rise in oil prices, but Japan shares lost ground as the yen strengthened.

The Fed left rates unchanged at between 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent at its March meeting, but it cut its projection for the number of 2016 rate hikes from four to two, and projected just two hikes in 2017. Uncertainty over how many times the Fed would hike rates this year has weighed on markets since the central bank raised them for the first time in almost nine years in December.

“This was far more dovish than markets had expected, resulting in sharp rallies in commodities, emerging markets and commodity-related currencies,” Angus Nicholson, market strategist at spreadbetter IG, said in a note Thursday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.22 percent, or 38.07 points, at 16,936.38, extending its fall over the previous two sessions, as the yen strengthened against the dollar and Japan’s February exports fell.

The dollar broadly lost ground after the Fed decision, causing the yen to strengthen. At 3:30 p.m. SIN/HK time, the dollar was fetching 111.83 yen, down from levels around 113.70 yen before the decision. A stronger yen typically weighs on Japan’s export-heavy market.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 0.66 percent, or 13.09 points, at 1,987.99. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed up 1.21 percent, or 246.11 points, at 20,503.81.

Chinese markets traded higher; with the Shanghai composite closed up 1.22 percent, or 35.113 points, to 2,905.543 and the Shenzhen composite rose 3.562 percent, or 60.965 points, to 1,772.43.

Australia’s SP/ASX 200 closed up 0.96 percent, or 49.13 points, at 5,168.15, buoyed by the energy subindex’s 2.75 percent rise and the materials sector’s 2.32 percent gain.

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