Global stocks mostly fall as Fed signals more US rate hikes ahead

John BIERS
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Federal Reserve minutes released Wednesday show Chairman Jerome Powell and other policy makers expect to continue interest rate hikes

Global stocks finished mostly lower on Wednesday amid lingering doubts about US interest rates and little sign of progress on talks in Britain's contentious divorce from the EU.

The weakness across the US and Europe suggested that the market had not shaken the doubts over higher interest rates and trade war fallout that led to last week's sell-off, in spite of Tuesday's strong session on both sides of the Atlantic.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting last month confirmed most policy makers expected more gradual interest rate hikes.

Further rate hikes "would most likely be consistent" with the current period of firming inflation and historically low unemployment, they said.

On the other hand, while risks were "roughly balanced," some Fed members said instability in emerging economies -- many of which are heavily indebted and vulnerable when US rates rise -- could "spread more broadly through the global economy and financial markets."

Brian Battle, director at the Performance Trust Capital Partners, predicted the markets would stay brittle as central banks exit a period of extraordinary low interest rates and monetary stimulus.

"As this policy begins to reverse, it is going to be destabilizing," Battle said. "There will be days where we sell off 500 and then recover 500, then sell off 250 and recover 250."

The S&P 500 finished the day only modestly lower, but the Dow was hit by a 7.6 percent slide in IBM shares after the technology giant reported a drop of two percent in third-quarter revenues to $18.8 billion, below analyst expectations.

- Still no Brexit breakthrough -

Paris, London and Frankfurt all fell as EU officials shrugged off British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech to Brussels summit attendees, seeing little movement in the British side on the impasse over the fate of the Irish border.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, said May offered them "nothing substantially new" to discuss when they retired for dinner afterwards without her.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier signaled he was willing to add a year to the 21-month post Brexit transition period -- taking it to the end of 2021.

Oil prices fell sharply after a US inventory report showed a big increase in oil supplies. The decline came despite continued scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei jumped 1.3 percent as the Japanese index rode the positive momentum from the prior day's session on Wall Street.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.4 percent at 25,706.68 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 2,809.21 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 7,642.70 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,059.40 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 11,715.03 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.5 percent at 5,144.95 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,243.08 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.3 percent at 22,841.12 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 2,561.61 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1501 from $1.1574

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3117 from $1.3181

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.59 from 112.25 yen

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN $1.36 at $80.05 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $2.17 at $69.75 per barrel

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