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Overnight Markets: US stocks retreat after Fed minutes

Overnight Markets: US stocks retreat after Fed minutes

Wall Street declined on Wednesday after minutes of the US Federal Reserve's latest policy-setting meeting signalled that the central bank will keep trimming its bond-buying stimulus unless there is a significant economic surprise.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 90 points or 0.56%, to end at 16,041. The S&P 500 slipped 12 points or 0.65%, to finish at 1,829. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 35 points or 0.82%, to close at 4,238.

Fed minutes from the January meeting of the policy-setting committee showed that several policymakers wanted to hone in on the idea that their asset-purchase programme would be trimmed in predictable, $10 billion steps unless there is a big economic surprise this year.

However, market participants were expecting the Fed to point to recent weakness in the economic data and reinforce their commitment to stimulating the economy.

Data on Wednesday showed US housing starts recorded their biggest drop in almost three years in January. The seasonally-adjusted US Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.2%, giving no real indication of a broad pickup in inflation pressures.

Tesla (TSLA.O) shares fell nearly 5% during regular trading hours, but surged close to 12% after the bell as the electric car maker registered better-than-expected fourth-quarter results.

Facebook (FB.O) shares were down over 2% in extended trading after closing at a record high, after news it will buy fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and stock.

Safeway Inc (SWY.N) shares gained 3.2% in extended-hours trading after the second-largest US mainstream grocery store operator said it is in talks about a possible sale of the company.

Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd's (CHTP.O) shares soared 24.4% during regular trading a day after its drug Northera, which treats a rare form of low blood pressure associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

In Asia, shares declined on Thursday in morning trade after a Chinese manufacturing index fell more than estimated.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 1% to 136 as of 10:23 a.m. in Hong Kong. Japan’s Topix index shed 1.4% and South Korea’s Kospi index fell 0.7%.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slipped 0.1% while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.4% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index declined 0.1%. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.5%. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.3%.

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