Stocks slip before Fed decision on stimulus

·4-min read
Investors already expect the US Federal Reserve to begin tapering its stimulus programme soon (AFP/Daniel SLIM)

Stock markets mostly moved lower and the dollar steadied Wednesday, with investors biding their time ahead of a hotly-anticipated Federal Reserve announcement on tapering its vast stimulus propping up the economy.

World oil prices sank as concerns about China tempered demand expectations and US stockpiles rose.

Wall Street was mixed in afternoon trading, with the Dow and S&P 500 moving in the red.

Meanwhile in Europe, London closed lower and Frankfurt ended the day flat, while Paris rose to break an intra-day record high that had stood for 21 years and set a record close for a second day running.

"If there is no sign of stress across... markets, it's mostly because we all think we know what will come out from today's (Fed) meeting: a gradual start of the tapering of the bond purchases programme," said SwissQuote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya.

With Wall Street racking up a third straight day of record highs on Tuesday, investors were easily able to put aside long-running worries about surging inflation and the prospect of higher interest rates.

"With the major indices at record highs, it can be said that there isn't much fear about the Fed taking away the punch bowl," said market analyst Patrick J. O'Hare at Briefing.com.

"What will be interesting to see is if the stock market keeps charging on the expected outcome or sees it as an opportunity to sell the news following a huge run that has been predicated in part on the belief that the Fed isn't going to raise its policy rate anytime soon," he said.

With inflation surging to levels not seen for years, central banks are being forced to row back the vast financial support put in place at the start of the pandemic, which has been credited with sending equities to records and helping the economic recovery.

While the Fed has clearly signalled it will begin to "taper" or wind down its stimulus programme, investors will be listening for any indication on when it may begin to hike interest rates.

"The taper itself is likely to be the non-event, and instead markets want to hear more about the outlook for inflation and growth, and any hints on interest rate rises," said market analyst Chris Beauchamp at trading platform IG.

Other central banks have already lifted borrowing costs or started to tighten the purse strings.

The Bank of England is expected Thursday to raise its interest rate for the first time in more than three years to help combat soaring inflation.

But the European Central Bank is "very unlikely" to raise its interest rates even in 2022 as "the outlook for inflation over the medium term remains subdued," , president Christine Lagarde said Wednesday in a speech in Lisbon.

In Asia, Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets were dented again by concerns about China's economy as leaders struggle to contain a new wave of Covid infections.

Hong Kong and Shanghai slipped, with the latest Covid spike in several parts of China forcing some cities into fresh lockdowns that have led to worries about the impact on already strained supply chains in the world's number two economy.

A summer outbreak has been blamed for dragging on growth in the third quarter and the closure of factories will further inflame fears about the recovery outlook.

- Key figures around 1630 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 35,949.99 points

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 percent at 4,307.70

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,248.89 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: FLAT at 15,959.98 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 6,950.65 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.3 percent at 25,024.75 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,498.54 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1582 from $1.1579 at 2100 GMT Tuesday

Dollar/yen: UP at 114.06 from 113.96 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3665 from $1.3612

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.76 pence from 85.06 pence

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.0 percent at $82.16 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.6 percent at $80.93 per barrel

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