World Shares Listless as Fed Minutes Fail to Sway Investors

A man looks at an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

World stock markets were drifting in listless trading Thursday as the latest Fed minutes left investors unmoved.

European shares were mixed in early trading. France’s CAC 40 added 0.2 percent to 4,904.54 and Germany’s DAX ticked up less than 0.1 percent to 12,002.81. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent to 7,296.89. U.S. shares were set for a flat open. Dow futures were unchanged at 20,750.00 and broader S&P 500 futures dipped less than 0.1 percent to 2,360.40.

At their meeting last month, Federal Reserve officials discussed the need to raise a key interest rate again “fairly soon,” especially if the world’s No. 1 economy maintains its strength, according to the minutes. Most economists had been expecting a rate hike no earlier than June, but the discussion raises the possibility it could come as soon as March. Investors were waiting for policymakers to follow up their talk with concrete action, but that also hinges on more details from President Donald Trump’s administration on his economy-boosting plans. Ultra-low interest rates have fueled a multiyear global stock rally and the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates has lifted the dollar and made the U.S. still more attractive than other markets for investors.

“Although many Fed members have repeatedly voiced that it may be appropriate to raise interest rates again ‘fairly soon,’ it is the lack of commitment to a hiking timeline and overall ambiguity that continues to leave investors empty-handed,” said Lukman Otunuga, an analyst at FXTM.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost less than 0.1 percent to close at 19,371.46 and South Korea’s Kospi finished 0.1 percent higher at 2,107.63. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 24,114.86 and the Shanghai Composite index retreated 0.3 percent to 3,251.38. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,784.70.

The dollar slipped to 113.19 yen from 113.37 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.0554 from $1.0546.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures rebounded, rising 79 cents to $54.38 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 71 cents to settle at $53.59 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, rose 78 cents to $56.58 a barrel in London.