Asian stocks sink after Wall Street dives on rate hike

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange listen as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is seen on a video screen giving a news conference from Washington after the Fed announced a rate increase, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A television screen at the New York Stock Exchange shows that the Federal Reserve Board announced a rate increase, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Stock trader Michael Milano works at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Stock traders work at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

BEIJING — Asian stock markets sank Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised U.S. interest rates and Wall Street dived to a 15-month low.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.7 percent to 20,631.45 points and the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,538.79. Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.4 percent to 25,748.54 and Seoul's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 2,066.09. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.3 percent to 5,561.00 and Taiwan also declined. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur advanced.

FED WATCH: The Fed raised raised its key interest rate for a fourth time this year to reflect U.S. economic strength and said it plans more increases next year. The increase lifted the Fed's benchmark rate to its highest level since the 2008 global financial crisis. The Fed said it expects two rate increases next year instead of three. Investors were disappointed Chairman Jerome Powell failed to go further in indicating a slowdown in the pace of increases.

WALL STREET: Stocks gave up a rally and plunged, sending the market to its lowest level since September 2017. The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from a gain to close down 1.5 percent at 23,323.66. The Standard & Poor's 500 skidded 1.5 percent to 2,506.96. It has lost 9.2 percent this month. The Nasdaq composite gave up 2.2 percent to 6,636.83.

ANALYST'S TAKE: With headwinds to growth and inflation stabilizing, "the Fed can afford to slow down from here," said Shane Oliver of AMP Capital in a report. "A more cautious Fed should provide some support for markets although more falls are possible into early next year before markets bottom and head higher as investors realize the US/global economy is not going into recession soon."

CHINA LENDING: Beijing unexpectedly announced a 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) lending program to support entrepreneurs. Financial analysts saw the "targeted easing" as a sign policymakers want to shore up economic growth without reigniting a rise in national debt levels.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 77 cents to $47.40 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.57 on Wednesday to close at $48.17. Brent crude, used to price international oils, retreated 65 cents to $56.59 per barrel in London. It gained 98 cents the previous session to close at $57.24.

CURRENCY: The dollar eased to 112.41 yen from Wednesday's 112.44 yen. The euro gained to $1.1381 from $1.1375.

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