* Asia ex-Japan falls on Fed minutes; yen weighs on Nikkei
* European stocks expected to open flat to higher
* Fed minutes show lack of consensus on future policy changes
* Crude rises following Wednesday’s slump on OPEC export rise
* Dollar slips, U.S. Treasury yields lower after Fed minutes
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, July 6 (Reuters) - Most Asian stock markets fell on Thursday after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed a lack of consensus on the future pace of U.S. interest rate increases, while oil prices inched higher following a steep decline a day earlier.
European markets were set for a steady open, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 to be unchanged, Germany’s DAX to open up 0.2 percent and France’s CAC 40 to start the day 0.1 percent higher.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.5 percent as a stronger yen depressed the outlook for export earnings.
South Korea’s KOSPI and Australian shares both lost 0.1 percent.
China’s bluechip CSI 300 index fell 0.5 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.3 percent.
Trading in Asia has been buffeted this week by tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korea fired a missile, which U.S. officials concluded was an intercontinental ballistic missile, into Japanese waters.
The United States said on Wednesday it was ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s nuclear missile programme but said it preferred global diplomatic action against Pyongyang.
The Nasdaq closed up 0.7 percent on Wednesday as technology shares recovered. But the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat and the S&P 500 gained just 0.15 percent.
Fed policymakers were increasingly split on the outlook for inflation and how it might affect the future pace of interest rate rises, according to minutes released on Wednesday of the central bank’s June 13-14 policy meeting.
Several officials also wanted to announce a start to the process of reducing the Fed’s large portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities by the end of August, but others preferred to wait until later in the year.
“With the mixed tone from the minutes and the essential delay to the announcement of balance sheet reduction timing, there is no surprise why we are seeing the muted reaction from the markets,” Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore, wrote in a note.
U.S. 10-year Treasury yields dipped to 2.3232 percent, but remained near a seven-week high touched on Wednesday.
The dollar retreated 0.3 percent to 112.92 yen on Thursday. The dollar index, which tracks the currency against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was little changed at 96.259.
“The minutes from the June 13-14 FOMC meeting underscore that the start of the balance sheet reduction is on course for this year,” Kathy Bostjancic, head of U.S. macro investor services at Oxford Economics, wrote in a note.
“On the interest rate front, we believe rising concerns that the slowdown in the inflation rate could be long-lasting will lead policymakers to forgo additional rate hikes this year and to only raise rates twice (total 50 basis points) in 2018.”
Markets are waiting for the release of U.S. non-farm payrolls data for June, due on Friday, for a steer on Fed policy.
The euro pulled back 0.1 percent to $1.13385 on Thursday.
U.S. crude was up 0.75 percent at $45.47 a barrel on Thursday, on strong demand in the U.S., after tumbling by as much as 5.4 percent on Wednesday.
The steep decline on Wednesday came on the back of data showing rising OPEC exports. That snapped an eight-day winning streak for U.S. oil, the longest rally in more than five years.
Brent added 0.8 percent to $48.17 on Thursday, after losing as much as 5.3 percent on Wednesday.
Gold prices were flat at $1,226.69 an ounce.
Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Neil Fullick & Shri Navaratnam