Global Stocks Drift as Investors Await Fed Meeting

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in the rain in Tokyo, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Global stock markets drifted in slow trading on Tuesday as investors awaited the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s meeting, and a batch of economic and political events later this week.

Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent to 7,373.68 while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.3 percent to 4,984.99. Germany’s DAX lost 0.1 percent to 11,973.58. Futures augured a tepid start on Wall Street. Dow futures fell 0.1 percent while S&P futures shed 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.1 percent to 19,609.50 but South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 2,133.78. India’s Sensex gained 1.6 percent to 29,401.19. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed flat at 23,827.95. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 3,239.33. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 also was steady at 5,759.10. Stocks in Taiwan were higher and in Southeast Asia, markets were mixed.

The Fed is scheduled to hold a policy meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday. Most investors expect it to raise rates for only the third time since they went to nearly zero during the financial crisis in 2008. With strong economic reports in recent weeks, expectations that the Fed may stand pat this month have changed.

“On the one hand, the market ponders a surprise hold, in which massive unwinding of positions could take place with the hike already priced in,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. On the other hand, the Fed could raise interest rates from record lows at a pace faster than expected.

The Bank of England, Bank of Japan and other central banks are also holding meetings this week. Many economists expect the Bank of England to hold steady. The British government meanwhile could formally begin the process of exiting the European Union. Margaret Yang, a market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said the so-called Brexit process could begin as early as the last week of March. The Netherlands has its own election this week, where politicians have also railed against the European Union and immigrants.

The dollar rose to 115.09 yen from 114.884 yen while the euro slipped to $1.0642 from $1.0653.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil added 7 cents to $48.47 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to close at $48.40 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 21 cents to $51.56 a barrel.