Japan Stocks Climb Almost 2%, Leading Gains in Asia Ahead of Fed's Key Rate Decision

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This is CNBC's live blog covering Asia-Pacific markets.

Asia-Pacific markets rose on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest update on its rate hike decision, as the central bank attempts to balance its inflation fight and stem a banking crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 led gains in the region, advancing 1.93% and closing at 27,466. The Topix was 1.74% higher and finished at 1,962.93.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 1.76%, and the Hang Seng Tech index rose 1.01%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.87% to close at 7,015.6, while in South Korea, the Kospi was up 1.2% to close at 2,416.96 and the Kosdaq gained 1.36% to end at 813.43.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite gained 0.31% to finish at 3,265.75 and the Shenzhen Component climbed 0.61% to end at 11,496.93.

Overnight in the US, all three major indexes rose as Wall Street extended its Monday rally, with the S&P 500 gaining 1.3% to finish at 4,002.87 — its first close above the 4,000 threshold since March 6.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.98%, and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.58% to lead gains in the U.S.

— CNBC's Hakyung Kim and Yun Li contributed to this report.

Healthcare and consumer cyclicals lead Hang Seng higher

The Hang Seng index led gains in the Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday, powered by health-care and consumer cyclical stocks.

Shares of Geely saw the biggest moves, up 7.16% after the automaker posted a 45.6% year on year gain in revenue for the whole of 2022 and a 8.5% rise in profit.

Wuxi Biologics and Country Garden Holdings were also among the top gainers, advancing 4.68% and 5.43% respectively.

— Lim Hui Jie

It will be 'very difficult' for VCs and startups to find another bank like SVB: Race Capital

It will be very difficult for venture capital firms and startups to find another bank that is as startup-friendly as the fallen Silicon Valley Bank, said U.S.-based venture capital firm Race Capital.

"SVB was not just another bank around the corner. They really were the bedrock of Silicon Valley," said Edith Yeung, general partner at Race Capital, on CNBC "Squawk Box Asia" on Wednesday. 

SVB was Race Capital's primary bank and two of their portfolio companies had 100% funds sitting in SVB, Yeung said.

"If you are a startup founder, you may be able to find another bank to custody your funds," she said.

"But going forward, it is definitely very, very difficult to find a bank that is so startup friendly, and be able to provide venture debt to many, many startups. This applies to startups in Silicon Valley and China," she added.

— Sheila Chiang

CNBC Pro: A longtime bear is ‘creeping back’ into tech — and has some picks to play it

Tech investor Paul Meeks has been bearish on tech for some time, but is finally beginning to warm up to the sector.

"I'm creeping back into the sector after long advocating an underweight position in it," he told CNBC on Friday. He joins a chorus of investors who have turned more bullish on the sector in recent weeks.

Pro subscribers can read more about Meeks' top stock picks here.

— Zavier Ong

China will leverage position to gain from a vulnerable Russia, analysts say

China's president, Xi Jinping, will wrap up his visit to Russia soon, and analysts argue Beijing will leverage its strong position to make gains from President Vladimir Putin.  

"Putin is weak, coming into these negotiations from real vulnerability," said Timothy Ash, emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, adding, he wondered "what price Xi will extract for saving Putin ... he has to get something out of it."

Overall, China has an upper hand economically over Russia, said Alicja Bachulska, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "If China supports Russia in a more substantial way this will continue even more," she added.  

Read the full story here.

— Yeo Boon Ping, Holly Ellyatt

CNBC Pro: Morgan Stanley is 'outright bullish' on Asia, emerging markets stocks

Morgan Stanley says it's "time to turn bullish" on Asia and emerging markets' growth stocks.

While markets may be pricing in a rate hike at the Federal Reserve's March meeting, many also expect rate cuts later this year. Easing financial conditions should benefit growth stocks, the strategists said.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Jihye Lee, Christine Wang

Nike says China sales fell 8% in holiday quarter

Nike reported sales in China fell 8% during the holiday quarter even as the country ended its zero-Covid policies.

The athletic apparel giant reported Greater China sales totaled $1.99 billion in the quarter ended Feb. 28. That's lower than Wall Street expectations for $2.09 billion, according to StreetAccount consensus estimates.

Still, Nike CEO John Donahoe remained optimistic saying the company saw growth "really pick up" in the second month of the quarter as Covid controls eased.

"The fundamentals of this market are good, right? It is a very large market that's growing. Sport and wellness is a key trend and tailwind there. There's a desire for innovation and style. And the key to winning in this market is simply put: having great innovation and connecting with Chinese consumers in a locally relevant way," Donahoe said.

Shares of Nike slipped 2.25% in the after-hours session.

— Christine Wang, Gabrielle Fonrouge

Topix jumps as much as 2% in early trade, led by financials

Japan's Topix index gained about 2% in early trading led by banks and Japanese financials.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, led the the index and rose 4.37%, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mizuho Financial were also among the top gainers, advancing 3.5% and 3.62% respectively.

Other names leading the index also included automaker Toyota, investment manager Softbank and technology corporation Sony.

— Lim Hui Jie

CNBC Pro: Exxon vs. Chevron? Goldman Sachs reveals its favorite — and other energy picks

Energy stocks dropped last week as oil prices fell to a 15-year low, with the banking crisis roiling markets.

Following the pullback, Goldman Sachs names its favorite stocks in energy — and reveals whether it prefers Exxon or Chevron.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Government could backstop more deposits if necessary, says Treasury Secretary Yellen

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that while authorities believe they've taken sufficient action to stem liquidity problems in the banking sector, the government is prepared to guarantee even more deposits if the banking crisis gets worse.

"The steps we took were not focused on aiding specific banks or classes of banks. Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader U.S. banking system," she said in remarks prepared for a speech to the American Bankers Association. "And similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion."

— Tanaya Macheel, Jeff Cox

First Republic leads regional bank stocks rally

Shares of First Republic soared by more than 38% on Tuesday morning. The move marks a reversal for the bank's losses yesterday, after Standard & Poor's cut its credit rating again over the weekend. Investors are optimistic after Janet Yellen's reassurances early Tuesday.

Shares of other U.S. regional banks continued to be in the green. Shares of PacWest Bancorp gained about 15.7%. Zions Bancorp. and KeyCorp added 5.3% and 5.8%, respectively. New York Community Bancorp. was up 1.8% and Fifth Third Bancorp rose 3.8%.

— Pia Singh

Big bank CEOs meeting in Washington to discuss First Republic, Reuters reports

CEOs from big banks, including JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, are meeting in Washington Tuesday for a two-day scheduled gathering, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

First Republic Bank, which has been under pressure due to the large percentage of uninsured deposits, will be discussed at the meeting, Reuters reported.

— Yun Li

Fed's 2% inflation target 'unlikely' to happen in 2023, according to Insight Investment

As the Federal Reserve is looking to announce its latest monetary policy decision on Wednesday, Insight Investment believes that inflation will continue to remain high in 2023.

"The 2% inflation objective is unlikely to be realized in 2023 but there is some hope that we may see a more normal inflation environment by 2024," Brendan Murphy, Head of Core Fixed Income, North America wrote in a Tuesday note.

"As the lagged effect of the Fed's policy rate increases along with the more recent tightening of financial conditions associated with the banking sector concerns works their way through the economy, the effects are likely to be disinflationary. Those same conditions present many risks to the growth picture," Murphy added.

Insight Investment expects the central bank will raise interest rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday, but added that "the recent market volatility could be an opportunity for them to pause at this meeting."

"The argument for a pause is strong as another 25bp increase could be seen as contributing to market volatility and financial instability," said Murphy.

"However, not delivering on 25bps might cause some to question the Fed's resolve in bringing inflation lower which could create a whole new set of problems. Pausing may lead to an easing of financial conditions that work against their inflation goals."

— Hakyung Kim

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