Shares slip

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    TOKYO/NEW YORK- Asian equities slipped on Wednesday as investors looked to the Federal Reserve’s guidance on its monetary policy while futures for US tech shares jumped after strong earnings from Microsoft.

    MSCI’s gauge of Asian ex-Japan shares slipped 0.3 percent, dragged lower by profittaking in resource shares as some investors have grown wary of stretched valuations.

    But Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2 percent and the region’s tech-heavy markets, such as South Korea and Taiwan eked out small gains, helped by 0.5 percent rises in Nasdaq futures after Microsoft’s brisk quarterly results.

    Microsoft shares rose 4 percent in extended trading after its Azure cloud computing services grew more 50 percent. The results boosted optimism for other US tech giants, including Apple and Facebook, which announce quarterly results later in the day.

    “Microsoft’s earnings were superb, even compared with strong market expectations,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

    “Those tech firm shares have been in a bit of the doldrums since August but they are likely to lead the market again, given their solid outlook,” he said.

    At their peak in August, the combined market capitalization of the top five biggest US tech companies, which also include Amazon and Alphabet, reached 24.6 percent of the US blue chip S&P500 index. It stood at 22.7 percent, still well above 15 percent two years ago.

    S&P500 futures were mostly flat, capped by caution ahead of the Fed’s policy meeting as well as profit-taking on cyclical shares after stellar gains this month.

    The S&P500 is now trading at 22.7 times its expected earnings, near its September peak of 23.1 times, which was its most inflated level since the dotcom bubble in 2000.