Asian stocks mixed as traders await Fed meeting

<p>Markets are looking for signals of an interest rate hike.</p>

Asian stocks were mixed today (March 16th) as investors await a US Federal Reserve meeting starting tomorrow that is expected to give some signals as to when an interest rate rise can be expected.

The Fed meeting will "undoubtedly" be the week's highlight for investors, Michael Every, head of Asia-Pacific financial market research at Rabobank, told AP. "We might well say goodbye to the key term 'patience', which has become a rolling rule of thumb for 'a few more months'. In other words, March could officially open the door to a potential June rate hike."

Meanwhile, Chinese stocks rose to their highest level in more than five years after Premier Li Keqiang told news agency Xinhua that policymakers have "fairly ample room" and a "host of policy instruments" to boost economic growth if it slows more than expected. 

The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.3 per cent to 3,449.30, its highest since August 2009, after the comments. 

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged down 0.1 per cent to close at 19,246.06 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 per cent to 1,987.33. Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 0.5 per cent up at 23,949.55. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3 per cent to 5,797.70.

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