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Most Asian markets have closed lower as nervous investors await the outcome of a key US Federal Reserve meeting amid low expectations of any new easing measures. Asian falls recently were also spurred by European stock markets sliding into the red as traders fretted about whether the European Central Bank would announce decisive monetary policies later this week. Tokyo stocks fell 0.61 percent, or 53.21 points to 8,641.85, Seoul slipped 0.1 percent, or 2.06 points, to 1,879.93, and Sydney was down 0.15 percent, or 6.4 points, at 4262.8. But Hong Kong rose 0.12 percent, or 23.57 points, to 19,820.38 while Shanghai shares were up 0.94 percent, or 19.73 points, to 2,123.36 despite weak Chinese manufacturing data for July.
Analysts said Premier Wen Jiabao's comments that more fine-tuning measures are planned to ensure growth lifted market confidence. Chinese state media cited Wen as saying the country must make stabilizing economic growth its priority in the face of continued downward pressure, spurring hopes Beijing may introduce further stimulus measures. The remarks helped investors shrug off a contraction in Chinese manufacturing as figures released on Wednesday showed the government's Purchasing Managers' Index slipped to 50.1 last month from 50.2 in June. British banking giant HSBC posted a reading of 49.3 in July compared to 48.2 in the previous month.
Overall market sentiment was down amid little hope of a fresh stimulus announcement by the US Federal Reserve at the end of a two-day monetary policy meeting. In fact, most economists expect the FOMC to hold off on any additional easing measures until at least September. Investors are also keeping an eye on Europe where central banks were expected to announce substantial stimulus measures later this week. At the moment, the ECB and the Bank of England unveil their latest monetary policy decisions, as the region grapples with the Euro Zone debt crisis. Currency rates were moving only narrowly in afternoon Asian trade.
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