Stocks slip ahead of Fed meeting; pound drops on Brexit move

U.S. stock indexes stuck close to their record levels in early trading Monday ahead of a busy week full of events that could swing markets. (AP

- Asian stocks fell Wednesday as the Fed met to decide on whether to hike interest rates in view of improvements in the USA economy.

Japan's benchmark index, Nikkei 225 fell 32.12 points or 0.16 percent to settle at 19,577.38. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 3,239.33. Taiwan's TAIEX lost 3.90 points or 0.04 percent to end at 9,740.31.

Financial stocks languished as USA yields fell after the Fed raised interest rates for the second time in three months, but did not flag any plans to accelerate the pace of monetary tightening.

ANALYST'S VIEWPOINT: "On the one hand, the market ponders a surprise hold, in which massive unwinding of positions could take place with the hike already priced in", said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 2,365.45.

Investors were also watching a meeting of world finance chiefs in Germany beginning on Friday, where topics such as economic reform, protectionism and exchange rates are expected to be on the agenda.

Most stock markets in Asia started the week on a high - tracking all three main Wall Street indexes - after the Labor Department said the economy created 235,000 new jobs in February, much more than estimated.

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Friday's U.S. jobs report came in well above forecasts, reinforcing expectations for a United States interest rate hike this week, and followed by several more later in the year. The British government, meanwhile, has been cleared by parliament to formally begin the process of exiting the EU.

The dollar edged 0.1 percent lower to a fresh five-week low against a basket of currencies .DXY . The Netherlands has its own election this week, where politicians have also railed against the European Union and immigrants.

CURRENCIES: The dollar climbed to 114.80 yen from 114.76 yen late Tuesday.

Oil prices continued to suffer following last week's losses of about nine percent in both main contracts hit by a surprisingly big jump in United States stockpiles, increased USA shale production and concerns about a OPEC-Russia led deal to cut output.

Brent crude was up 0.1 percent at $51.79 a barrel.

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