US Federal Reserve Keeps Interest Rates Unchanged at 1.5 - 1.75 Range

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"The committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate".

In late March, the Fed raised interest rates by a quarter percent for the first time this year during Jerome Powell's first meeting as Chairman.

In Europe, earnings disappointments from medical technology company Smith & Nephew and postal services provider Bpost soured the mood as the stocks fell 5.9 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively, while German drug and crop chemicals maker Bayer flagged a stronger euro in its update.

Commodity-linked currencies like the Canadian CAD= and Australian AUD= dollars gained sharply, with the latter rising 0.4 percent to $0.7523 cents after data showing a better-than-expected jump in the country's trade surplus for March.

Copper climbed 0.1 per cent to US$3.07 a pound. "The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation".

Gold prices have struggled to find momentum as a result of a strong USA dollar, but have managed to hold in a well-established trading range above critical psychological support at $1,300.

"The risk at the moment is that the increasing uncertainty could create ambiguity in executives' heads, it makes corporate decision-making more hard and then (leads to) a decline in investment", Alastair George, chief investment strategist at Edison Investment Research, said. "That's negative for the dollar because ... the dollar needs higher real rates to essentially pull in the funding from the rest of the world".

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended 1.3 per cent lower, but Chinese shares bucked the trend.

Yet the Fed also emphasised the inflation target was "symmetric", suggesting it was not inclined to speed up its tightening plans. That was an upgrade from the March meeting in which the FOMC said the indicators "have continued to run below 2 percent". Most foresee either two or three additional increases in the Fed's benchmark rate by year's end, coming after an earlier hike in January.

US government bond prices inched higher Wednesday after the Treasury Department outlined plans to issue a wave of new debt to finance the federal government's growing borrowing needs.

Sluggish inflation stood in the way of quicker rate rises past year, but headline inflation has recently returned to the Fed's target of 2 per cent, leaving policymakers better placed to forge ahead with their rate-lifting plans.

The U.S. dollar bought 109.68 Japanese yen, lower than 109.80 Japanese yen of the previous session. Yields rise as bond prices fall. June gold futures last traded at $1,311.50 an ounce, up 0.36% on the day.