Asian stocks mixed as investors await Fed's likely rate hike

US stock index futures were little changed on Monday as investors braced for an action-packed week headlined by an all-but-certain interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. The Dow is up 45.19 points or 0.2 percent at 20,882.56, the Nasdaq is up 7.25 points or 0.1 percent at 5,864.07 and the S&P 500 is up 7.18 points or 0.3 percent at 2,372.68. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 36 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,874. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite in China closed 0.08 percent higher, while the Nikkei in Japan closed 0.16 percent lower.

Oil prices rose more than 1 per cent Wednesday, lifted by a surprise drawdown in USA crude inventories and data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggesting OPEC cuts should create a crude deficit in the first half of 2017.

Investors were pricing in a likely 25 point basis point hike by the Fed to between 0.75% and 1% and will look out for suggestions for when the central bank's next rate hike might come. Most investors expect the Fed to raise rates for only the third time since they went to almost zero during the financial crisis in 2008.

At the final bell, American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was trading at $47.94 a barrel with a 1 percent decline.

Futures indicated Asia-Pacific equities were set to follow USA and European stocks lower ahead of Wednesday's Federal Reserve decision as oil output disclosures by Saudi Arabia and US stockpiles data whipsawed crude.

US February retail sales fell to 5.7% growth from 6.0% in January. Prices have been under pressure since a weekly reading on USA stockpiles showed supplies hit record levels.

The market had dipped after data emerged showing key producer Saudi Arabia increased production last month, raising questions about the OPEC cartel's reduction commitment, just as U.S. shale output expands. Authorities in the USA have yet to sign off on the deal.

Other data showed consumer prices barely rose in February but the underlying trend remained consistent with rising inflation.

CURRENCIES: The dollar ticked up to 114.77 Japanese yen from 114.72 yen late Tuesday. On the Nasdaq, 1,809 issues rose and 831 fell.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy index's 1.07 percent rise leading the gainers. While the New York Empire State manufacturing gauge for March was 16.4 versus a forecast 15, and U.S. consumer prices rose by 2.7% in the year to March - in line with expectations but up from 2.5% inflation in February, retail sales sagged.

MSCI's all-country world stock index gained 0.2 per cent.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt's DAX 30 grew 0.1 per cent to 12,000.44 points and the Paris CAC 40 also won 0.1 per cent to 4,980.05 compared with the close on Tuesday.



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