Asian stocks flat as Fed minutes show support for rate hike

By YOUKYUNG LEE Markets Associated Press

Asian stock markets were largely flat on Thursday with investors in the U.S. markets going on a Thanksgiving holiday and the Fed minutes largely in line with investor expectations that the Fed will soon raise interest rates for a third time next month. Japan was closed on a holiday.

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KEEPING SCORE: China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent to 3,422.65 while South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,538.88. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 5,986.50. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.5 percent to 30,148.75. Stocks in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries were slightly higher.

FED: Minutes of the Fed's last meeting that ended Nov. 1 showed that most officials generally believe that it'll soon be time for another increase in the Fed's key interest rate. A few Fed leaders think rates should stay where they are until there is more evidence inflation is rising, showing the concerns that the U.S. inflation is falling short of expectations despite the jobless rate falling to the lowest level in nearly 17 years. But the minutes did not change expectations for a December rate hike, analysts said.

ANALYST'S TAKE: While the minutes did not surprise markets, "the statement does clear the air of one raging debate, and that's 2018 rate hikes unambiguously depend more pressingly on inflation than on growth," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia trading at OANDA.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished mostly lower on Wednesday retreating from their latest record highs. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 1.95 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,597.08. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 64.65 points, or 0.3 percent, to 23,526.18. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.88 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record 6,867.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,516.76. U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will reopen Friday but will close at 1 p.m. ET.

OIL: The price of oil retreated after a jump on reports that key oil producers might extend the cuts in production they made at the start of this year. U.S. crude fell 15 cents to $57.87 per barrel on New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract rose $1.19, or 2.1 percent, to $58.02 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 23 cents to $63.09 per barrel in London. It gained 75 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $63.32 a barrel.

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CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.35 yen from 111.24 yen. The euro rose to $1.1833 from $1.1819.