Asian markets up, dealers hang on Yellen remarks

Hong Kong - Most Asian markets rose on Wednesday, tracking a seventh successive record on Wall Street as they wait for the conclusion of a keenly awaited Federal Reserve policy meeting.

After months of betting the Fed will lift interest rates, the big day has arrived and investors will be hanging on every word bank boss Janet Yellen says in her post-meeting conference hoping for clues about future policy.

"The markets are sitting tight waiting for the Fed decision, but more so Dr Yellen's forward outlook and, of course, the accompanying statement," Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said.

"As is the case with most Fed 'pressers', it will mainly involve deciphering the Feds verbal gymnastics while looking for a smoking gun - tonight's smoking gun will be in the form of a hawkish or dovish Fed lean."

Global equities and the dollar have rallied in the five weeks since Donald Trump won the US election, with traders betting his plans for big spending, tax cuts and deregulation will fan already healthy economic growth.

Expectations that will in turn light a fire under inflation has led to speculation the Fed will be forced to embark on a more aggressive programme of rate hikes that previously thought.

In early trade Hong Kong was up 0.7%, Sydney added 0.9%, and Shanghai and Singapore each gained 0.1%. Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei were also higher. Seoul was flat.

'Santa coming to town'
The advances come after the Dow finished at a record high for the seventh successive day and ended just shy of the 20 000 mark.

"Today is one of those days where the folly of trying to make sense of any one day's moves is self-evident," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader.

"Last night we saw a huge rally in US and European stocks, which has propelled the big US indexes to new record highs.

"So much for fear of the US Fed or profit taking, Santa Claus is coming to town it seems," McKenna said.

Tokyo went into the break 0.1% lower, having chalked up seven straight gains and closed Tuesday at its highest level since mid-December.

However, the losses were limited after the Bank of Japan's closely watched Tankan survey showed business confidence among the country's major manufacturers rising for the first time in more than a year.

The Nikkei was also being supported by a weaker yen, which is struggling to recover against the dollar as the Fed prepares to lift borrowing costs.

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