World stocks were mostly higher Wednesday ahead of an expected rate hike by the Federal Reserve, while Asian indexes were weighed by Japanese data that showed its exports slowing in November.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 percent to 10,756.02 and France’s CAC 40 was 0.3 percent higher at 4,768.28. Britain’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.4 percent to 6,727.83. Wall Street was set for an optimistic open. S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 percent to 2,551.30 and Dow futures added 0.4 percent to 23,710.00.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.6 percent to 20,987.92 while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 2,078.84. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 0.2 percent higher at 25,865.39. The Shanghai Composite index shed 1.1 percent to 2,549.56. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.2 percent to 5,580.60. Shares were higher in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
FED DECISION: The Fed will likely hike its short-term interest rate after a meeting ends Wednesday. It is expected to raise the rate — used as a benchmark for many consumer and business loans — by a modest quarter point to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. The central bank has forecast three more hikes in 2019, but investors doubt it would go as planned. Higher rates can slow economic growth and the U.S. economy is expected to cool off in 2019. China and Europe have also suggested that growth is slowing.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “While U.S. economic signals are not flashing red … many market participants believe the Fed should provide investors with some breathing room after higher interest rates coupled with tighter liquidly conditions have sent equity markets on a downward spiral since October,” Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a commentary. “What is sure from my chair is the Fed will deliver a fourth rate hike for the year on cue, but what is entirely up in the air is which key cardinal point the meeting will shift to,” he added.
JAPANESE TRADE: On Wednesday, Japan reported that its trade balance in November was a deficit of 737.3 billion yen, from 450.1 billion yen in the previous month. This is its fourth deficit in last five months. The country’s exports broadly slowed, partly due to weakening demand from China. Japanese exports rose 0.1 percent from a year earlier, as compared to October’s 8.2 percent gain. This fueled concerns about the impact of the US-China trade dispute on the world’s third-largest economy.
ENERGY: Oil prices bounced back slightly after plunging on worries about rising supplies and weakening global growth, which could weigh on demand. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 19 cents to $46.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which has fallen almost 40 percent since October, gave up $3.60 to $46.60 on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 41 cents to $56.67 a barrel. It lost $3.35 to $56.26 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.36 yen from 112.52 yen in late trading Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1403 from $1.1366.
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