Shares up in Asia before US Fed comments

<p>The Fed is likely to remove the word “patient” from its statement.</p>

Asian stocks were up today (March 18th) before a Federal Reserve meeting that's expected to pave the way for an increase in US interest rates as early as June. The Fed is likely to remove the word "patient" from its statement on the timing of its first hike since 2006.

"Our base case is that they will remove `patience'. If we get that and a measured message on the dollar's impact on inflation then, given the slight retracement we have seen in the first half of this week, I think the dollar will do well,"  Michael Sneyd, a currency strategist with BNP Paribas in London, told Reuters.

Tokyo's Nikkei index 225 rose 0.3 per cent to 19,443.79. Chinese stocks reached their highest level in seven years on hopes that authorities would launch a new economic stimulus programme. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China gained 0.9 per cent to 3,532.99.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 per cent to 2,032.92, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped one per cent to 24,146.02. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.5 per cent to 5,811.30.

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