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=ASIA MARKETS: Asian Stocks End Week Higher After Fed Signals Pause

HONG KONG (Mar 22) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan ended little changed on Friday, but rose for the week after the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled it was unlikely to raise rates this year.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index edged 0.05% higher to 1,332.61 on Friday. For the week, it rose 1.2%.

The Fed stood pat on interest rates earlier this week, as was widely expected, and also indicated that it would not raise interest rates this year. The move came as a relief to regional markets that had come under pressure last year when the U.S. monetary authority raised rates four times and hinted at the possibility of further tightening. Investors continue to watch developments on bilateral trade relations between the U.S. and China.

Internet services heavyweight Tencent Holdings rose 0.6% on Friday in Hong Kong after reporting a 32% plunge in fourth-quarter profit, even as revenue for the period increased 28% from a year earlier.

China Mobile fell 1.4%, extending Thursday’s 4.8% drop, after reporting a 0.5% decline in 2018 revenue and a 3.1% increase in profit.

Chinese vehicle maker Dongfeng Motor Group rose 3.8% after saying it will enter into a partnership agreement with FAW Group, Chongqing Changan Automobile and others to establish a joint venture for ride-hailing and mobility services.

Chongqing Changan Automobile shares jumped by the maximum permissible 10% in Shenzhen.

Hyundai Motor declined 0.8% in Seoul. The company’s shareholders on Friday voted against a proposal by Elliott Management that called for a special dividend and board changes. Hyundai Mobis, whose shareholders also voted against the proposal, ended 0.5% higher.

Li & Fung surged 13.1% in Hong Kong after the supply chain manager said its net loss for 2018 narrowed to $11 million from $375 million a year earlier.

Anhui Conch Cement ended 0.8% lower after reporting an 88.1% surge in 2018 net profit and a 70.5% jump in revenue.

Low cost carrier AirAsia rose 0.7% in Kuala Lumpur. The company on Friday said will be formed as a new company under Red Beat Inc. and other airlines will soon sell their tickets on its online ticketing platform.

Malaysia’s Top Glove slid 0.7% after the world’s biggest rubber glovemaker by volume reported a 3% decline in second-quarter net profit largely due to higher taxation.

Data released on Friday showed Malaysia’s consumer prices fell at a quicker-than-expected pace in February, driven mostly by lower fuel prices. The consumer price index -- Malaysia’s main gauge of inflation -- fell 0.4% in February from a year earlier, according to a statement from the Department of Statistics. That compares to a median 0.3% decrease predicted by nine economists in a Nikkei Markets’ poll and January’s 0.7% year-on-year decline.

“February’s inflation data further cemented the case for a cut in the overnight policy rate,” Sanjay Mathur, chief economist for Southeast Asia and India at ANZ Research, wrote in a note. The brokerage expects a single 25-basis-point cut by Bank Negara Malaysia on May 7.

- By Suzannah Benjamin;; +852 3960 5150
- Edited by Vipin Nair
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