Asian stocks muted as Fed measures boost fades

Kelvin Chan, AP Business Writer

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stocks were muted Monday as the boost faded from the Federal Reserve's announcement last week of new measures to energize the U.S. economy.

Oil rose while the dollar remained near a four-month low versus the euro as investors bet that the Fed's plan to keep interest rates low and spend billions buying securities would result in better returns on commodities.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was flat at 20,632.24 and South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.4 percent to 2,000.03.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.2 percent higher to 4,399.00. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.3 percent to 2,095.70.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia rose. Markets in Japan were closed for a holiday.

Global stock markets rallied late last week after the Fed announced it planned to buy $40 billion of mortgage bonds a month for as long as necessary as part of a strategy known as quantitative easing aimed at encouraging people to borrow money and spend it. The Fed also extended its pledge to keep short-term interest rates low until 2015, a year longer than its previous target.

While investors were still in the mood to take on more risk, "the risk of profit taking has grown given the pace and magnitude of recent moves," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a research note.

Andrew Sullivan, principal sales trader at Piper Jaffray Asia Securities, said this week was a key one for stock markets because investors have now seen most of the possible stimulus measures available to policymakers in major economies — with the possible exception of China.

"If markets don't rally and volumes don't increase this week then they are unlikely to during the rest of the year," Sullivan said. He said he had doubts that investors would return to the markets.

Uncertainties include the European Union's simmering debt crisis and the state of the U.S. economic recovery, he said. Sullivan also speculated that Chinese authorities could unveil economic stimulus measures ahead of a Communist Party congress expected this autumn to hand over power to a younger generation. The date for that meeting has still not been set.

Hong Kong property companies fell after authorities announced more measures on Friday to tighten requirements for mortgage borrowers to prevent overheating in the property market. Sino Land Co. fell 1.8 percent and New World Development Co. fell 1.3 percent. Henderson Land Development Co. fell 0.6 percent.

In the U.S. on Friday, the Dow 0.4 percent to close at 13,593.37. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.4 percent 1,465.77. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 0.9 percent to 3,183.95.

Crude for October delivery was up 10 cents to $99.10 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract finished up 69 cents to $99 per barrel in New York on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3127 from $1.3117 late Friday. The dollar fell to 78.26 Japanese yen from 77.30 Japanese yen.