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Asian markets seen cautiously firmer ahead of Fed statement

Sydney, Reuters | Updated : 30 October 2013, 08:19 AM

Asian share markets should take heart from record highs in U.S. stocks on Wednesday as investors wager the Federal Reserve will rock no boats at its policy meeting and leave stimulus in place for the next few months at least.

Australia was the first market to dip its toe in the water, gaining 0.5 per cent, while MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a shade firmer.

A mixed bag of U.S. economic data caused few frowns since it merely reinforced expectations the central bank will maintain to the status quo when its two-day policy meeting ends on Wednesday.

Even the U.S. dollar got a lift as dealers gauged the prospect of easy money for longer had now been pretty much discounted following two months of losses.

Markets seem to be operating on the assumption that the Fed's policy statement will not challenge the growing consensus that any tapering of its $85 billion of monthly asset purchases will not start until March at the earliest.

Such an outcome would be taken as justifying the rallies in stocks and bonds seen in recent weeks and might have only a limited impact on prices in the near term.

But it also means markets are vulnerable to a surprise.

"With expectations of taper firmly kicked into 2014 the risk that the FOMC could decide to move earlier looks asymmetrical," said Patrick Perret-Greene, an analyst at Australia and New Zealand Bank.

"If the Fed does nothing tomorrow then nothing really happens but if they do something or even hint at moves in the not too distant future the effects could be dramatic."

The Fed's decision is due at 1800 GMT, though divining its true message may be tricky as no new economic forecasts are released and nor will Chairman Ben Bernanke be giving a news conference.

First Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 08:18 AM

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