Asian stock markets eke out slight gains as US Federal Reserve policymakers prepare to meet

BANGKOK - Asian stock markets eked out slight gains as traders refrained from big moves ahead of a meeting of the U.S. central bank that starts later Tuesday.

The Federal Reserve is not likely to announce any policy changes at the conclusion of its two-day meeting, but markets will be on the lookout for hints of an expiry date for the Fed's massive stimulus program.

"Apparently investors are in no mood to place any large bets ahead of the conclusion of the ... meeting on Wednesday but prefer to stay on the sidelines," Anthony Lam of Credit Agicole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary. "As such markets will likely trade in relatively tight ranges for the day."

The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds a month in a move that has kept long-term rates near record lows and supported economic recovery. The program has been a boost to stock markets, since low interest rates make equities and commodities a more attractive investment.

Economic data this week could go a long way to determining when the central bank begins to reduce its monetary stimulus.

Many in the markets think the Fed could start paring back its stimulus program as early as September.

Japan's benchmark index recovered some of the territory lost during Monday's plunge. The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 per cent to 13,718.66. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.7 per cent to 1,912.77. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent to 21,970.32.

Australia's S

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 26 cents to $104.29 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The near-month contract for the benchmark grade fell 15 cents to close at $104.55 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3252 from $1.3261 late Monday. The dollar rose to 98.09 yen from 97.90 yen.


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