Asia Mixed with Focus on Fed, Obama & Toyota

Asian stocks markets traded mixed on Wednesday, ahead of a series of important events including the Federal Reserve’s policy announcement and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

The Federal Open Market Committee began a two-day meeting on Tuesday that is expected to yield few policy shifts, with a Fed statement on the economy and interest rates expected on
Wednesday.

Obama makes his State of the Union speech on Wednesday evening.

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Japan’s Nikkei Average [JP;N225  10297.44  -27.8398  (-0.27%)   ] was almost flat. Toyota Motor fell more than 2 percent after it said on Tuesday it will suspend sales of eight models involved in a recall announced last week for potentially faulty accelerator pedals.

Other exporters also fell, partly hurt by a stronger yen, but  shares of companies that depend on domestic demand such as drugmakers including Eisai Co rose to support the market.

The benchmark Nikkei fell 20.90 points to 10,304.38, after falling as low as 10,299.07, its lowest since Dec. 22.  It fell 1.8 percent the previous day to its lowest finish in five weeks, hurt as the yen rose broadly after China implemented a previously ordered increase in reserve requirements for some banks.

The broader Topix retreated 0.3 percent to 913.86.

Market analysts saw little immediate impact from Standard and  Poor’s warning on Tuesday that it may cut Japan’s credit rating  unless it produces a credible plan to rein in its soaring debt  and lift growth in an economy plagued by persistent deflation.

Canon shed 2 percent to 3,645 yen and Sony Corp fell 2 percent to 2,941 yen. Tokyo Electron slipped 1.1  percent to 5,540 yen.

But Eisai rose 1 percent to 3,400 yen and Takeda Pharmaceutical gained 0.8 percent to 4,030 yen. Mobile phone carrier Softbank Corp added 0.4 percent to 2,313 yen.

Seoul shares opened slightly higher on Wednesday but gains were limited as investors remained cautious amid U.S. regulatory developments, while LG Electronics retreated after weaker than expected results.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.18 percent to 1,640.25 points.

Australian shares fell 1.5 percent, as big miners were dragged down on China demand concerns, while Woolworths fell after its second quarter sales fell short of market expectations.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index [AU;XJO  4650.7  -67.156  (-1.42%)   ] shed 71.1 points to 4,646.8 points, falling for a fourth straight session.

Woolworths,  Australia’s largest supermarket chain, fell 2.2 percent to A$26.89 after reporting a 4.2 percent rise in H1 sales and said second half could be hurt by low price inflation.

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Conglomerate CSR lost 2.9 percent to A$1.86 after rejecting a takeover proposal from China’s Bright Food (Group) for its sugar business.

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, dropped 1.6 percent to A$40.58 and smaller rival Rio Tinto shed 3.9 percent to A$70.48 after China ordered some banks to comply immediately with a planned increase in reserves.

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