Asia Markets Down on US Rate Hike Fears

TOKYO (AP) -- Asian stock markets fell in subdued trading Tuesday amid growing expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in June.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.9 percent to close at 16,498.76 as the yen continued to strengthen, hurting exporters. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.4 percent to 5,295.60. South Korea's Kospi edged down 0.9 percent to 1,937.68. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 19,749.95 while the Shanghai Composite index slid 0.8 percent to 2,821.14.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 8.01 points, or 0.05 percent, to 17,492.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,048.04, and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.78 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,765.78.

WAITING ON THE FED: Investors are watching for clues on whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month. That would depend on its assessment of the resilience of the American economy, which impacts global growth. Speeches by several Fed members this week may give insights into what Fed policymakers might do at their meeting in June.

THE QUOTE: It seems "market participants are pining for more clarity after the Fed minutes, released last week, indicated that most members are in favor of a rate hike in June if economic conditions continue to improve," Bernard Aw of IG said in a client note. "The market wants more affirmation on this, although I would think that the writing is clear enough and what we need is not more rhetoric but hard data."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 32 cents to $47.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 33 cents in the previous session. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 40 cents to $47.95 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 109.35 yen from 109.81 yen and the euro fell to $ 1.1207 from $1.1239.

(KA)