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Asian shares advance as Fed keeps rates unchanged

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September 21
4:05 AM 2015

Most financial markets in Asia ended the week higher after the US Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates unchanged.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.4% Friday. Despite that, the bourse was still down 3.2% for the week as investors worried over the Fed decision as well as weakness in economic data.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.3%, taking its gains for the week to 1.9%.

South Korea's Kospi index recovered early losses Friday to close 0.98% higher at 1,995.95. That's the index's highest peak in more than a month.

Taiwanese shares were up 0.2%, its highest level since August 11.

Other gainers were the Philippines' PSE Composite Index, which rose 0.1%, and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite, up 0.04%.

The biggest loser in Asia was Japan, whose Nikkei Stock Average dropped 2% Friday on the back of the strength of the yen. The bourse was down 1.1% for the week.

Blue chip stocks in Japan like Toyota Motor and Canon lost 2% each. Panasonic fell 2.2%. Heavy selling struck financials, including Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Both dropped 3%.

Singapore's Straits Times index also underperformed, losing 0.56% Friday, as did Malaysian shares, which dropped 0.72%.

Many markets in Asia had performed well prior to the Fed's decision, on expectations the world's most influential central bank would delay its interest rate hike until later in the year.

In holding off a rate hike Thursday, the Fed said it took into account weakness in the global economy, as well as turbulence in financial markets.

"In the grand scheme of things, the decision by the Fed to leave rates unchanged is indicative that the global economy and the U.S. economy is performing worse than previously projected," market analyst Angus Nicholson told CNBC.

Fed chief Janet Yellen said the central bank could increase interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade if the job market continues to grow and inflation moves closer to the Fed's 2% target. That decision could come when Fed officials meet again, either in October or December.

With a rate hike still looming ahead, investors say volatility is here to stay, at least until yearend. "We still don't have clarity on when the Fed will raise interest rates...they acknowledge that the global environment is something that they're monitoring," investment strategist Michael Arone told the Wall Street Journal.

US short-term rates have been near zero since 2008.

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