Asia shares inch ahead, euro steady as Fed meets

January 27
4:51 AM 2015

Most Asian share markets firmed on Tuesday and the euro clung to rare gains, relieved that European equities had weathered Greece's election outcome without too much disruption.

The main European indices were expected to open higher, though foul weather in the United States will curb activity on Wall Street. The Federal Reserve also starts its first policy meeting of the year, in what is a busy week for earnings.

Japan's Nikkei gained 1.4 percent, while Australia's main index added 0.8 percent. Other moves were mostly modest and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat on the day. 

Chinese markets continued their recent erratic path and the Shanghai index slipped 2.2 percent.

On Wall Street, the Dow had ended Monday up a bare 0.03 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.26 percent and the Nasdaq 0.29 percent.

A snow storm engulfing New York is expected to keep many investment banks and fund managers on skeleton staff, though the main exchanges all plan to open as usual on Tuesday.

Around 30 percent of S&P500 companies report earnings this week, including tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Of the 96 companies that have reported so far, 66 have topped forecasts, 18 disappointed and 12 were in line with estimates.

The U.S. Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and investors are keen to hear its take on the rash of policy easings from the euro zone to Canada and Switzerland.

The general assumption is the Fed will acknowledge the uncertain global outlook and stick to its promise to be patient on tightening. Yet its timetable remains for lift-off on rates by mid-year, a trajectory that presages further broad-based gains for the dollar.

The dollar was near an 11-year peak against a basket of major currencies at 94.910 having risen 11 percent in only the past three months.

It softened a shade on the yen to 118.28 yen, while the euro pared a little of its recent heavy losses to stand at $1.1243.

The Fed is hardly alone in meeting this week, with policy decisions awaited from Hungary,Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia and Russia.

In Europe, Greek left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in on Monday as the prime minister of a new hardline, anti-bail-out government determined to face down international lenders and end nearly five years of austerity.

Tsipras quickly sealed a coalition deal with the Independent Greeks party which also opposes the EU/IMF aid program.

The reaction in markets was modest by recent standards. Greek stocks fell 3 percent, led lower by bank stocks. Greek 10-year bond yields rose, but stayed below the levels seen in the run-up to the vote.

In commodity markets, U.S. crude was quoted 10 cents firmer at $45.25. Brent edged up 16 cents to $48.32, but that followed a 1.3 percent drop on Monday.

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