Asia stocks set for mixed start

A man reading a newspaper sits in front of an electronic stock board at the Asia Plus Securities Pcl headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. (Bloomberg pic)

SYDNEY: Asian stocks were poised for a mixed start after Federal Reserve meeting minutes confirmed the central bank’s dovish tilt on policy this year. Treasuries gained and US equities rose.

Futures were little changed in Hong Kong, and signalled small losses in Japan and Australia.

The S&P 500 Index advanced as unexpectedly soft inflation boosted the Fed’s wait-and-see approach to rate hikes.

Sovereign bonds climbed as central bankers detailed weakness in the economic outlook, pushing yields on German Bunds further below zero.

Global equities are showing signs of fatigue after a strong start to the year. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated warnings that global risks continue to batter the region’s economy as the ECB signalled no rate hikes for the rest of 2019.

Despite a US economy that is forecast to grow above trend with low unemployment, Fed minutes showed concern about external drags such as slowing European growth, the potential of a disruptive Brexit and the ongoing trade war.

“I think this confirms the message that we got from the March meeting,” said James McCann, senior economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “This is a Fed that’s pretty happy to just sit on its hands for the time being and stay on hold and see how some of these cross currents play out.”

Elsewhere, the pound was steady as European Union leaders met in Brussels to hash out the terms of a Brexit delay. Oil rebounded to a five-month high after EIA data showed the biggest drop in gasoline stockpiles since 2017.