The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.4 percent to 144.40 as of 9:02 a.m. in Tokyo. Factory production in the U.S. declined in February for a third straight month, data showed Monday, while confidence among U.S. homebuilders unexpectedly retreated this month to an eight-month low. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 1.4 percent, the most in almost six weeks. The Fed starts a two-day meeting today, with investors watching whether the central bank removes a reference to being “patient” on rate increases from its statement.
“While the word patient may be taken away from the Fed statement, they won’t raise rates immediately since there are still signs of weakness in the U.S. economy,” said Hans Goetti Singapore-based head of investment for Asia at Banque Internationale a Luxembourg SA, which has about $36 billion in assets. “Given that the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank are still pursuing quantitative easing, it’s hard to see the U.S. raising rates immediately.”
The Bank of Japan reports on monetary policy today, and Indonesia reviews rates, with most economists predicting they’ll be held after a surprise cut in February. The Reserve Bank of Australia publishes minutes of its last meeting, when borrowing costs were unexpectedly left unchanged.
Japan’s Topix index added 0.8 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.7 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.8 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slid 0.1 percent. Markets in China and Hong Kong have yet to open.
Chinese stocks gained yesterday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbing to its highest level since August 2009, after Premier Li Keqiang pledged to take action if economic growth slows too much and the benchmark money-market rate fell.
West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery fell as much as 0.4 percent to $43.69 a barrel, heading for a sixth day of declines and extending a six-year low. U.S. government data due on Wednesday is forecast to show that crude supplies expanded to a record in the world’s biggest consumer.