Markets cautious on eve of Fed rate call

Roland JACKSON
Investors are nervous as they wait for the Fed

Global stock markets marked time Tuesday with investors wary on the eve of a US Federal Reserve interest rate decision.

London and Paris edged higher while Frankfurt held its ground, after a broadly downbeat session in Asia despite surging Tokyo stocks.

Wall Street drifted higher, with the Dow striking a new record high in early trading.

"As tends to be the case in the run up to a Fed meeting, the markets have been pretty subdued this Tuesday, investors unwilling to do anything too drastic until the central bank releases its latest statement tomorrow evening," said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex.

Investors are now on the US central bank, whose two-day gathering kicked off Tuesday, amid global moves towards tighter monetary policy.

While the Fed is not expected to raise interest rates, remarks from the Fed and its boss Janet Yellen will be pored over for clues about future moves -- with talk of another rise -- and plans to wind down the vast bond-buying stimulus put in place during the financial crisis.

"I suspect they are not going to raise rates quite yet; I suspect they will guide towards December," said David Hussey, head of international core equities at Manulife Asset Management.

"The US economy is in reasonably good health at the moment. It's doing okay.

"Unemployment is very low and the weak dollar is probably going to boost a bit of inflation so she (Yellen) will probably be raising rates again early next year."

- 'Incredibly low rates' -

With global economic growth improving, major central banks around the world are mulling moves to tighten monetary policy.

That has sparked investor jitters over the impact of higher borrowing costs on consumers, businesses and financial markets.

"There's no reason not to start normalising policy. People are obsessing about this," Hussey told AFP.

"The big picture is that we are at incredibly low rates and they have to start slowly moving back up to some sort of normal neutral level, which is probably some way higher than they are at the moment.

"So ... people see it coming and therefore they are nervous. It's as simple as that."

The Fed is also expected this week to announce the start of a plan to gradually reduce the multi-trillion dollar investment holdings built up to support the economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

- 'Trump trade' -

World stocks had bounced higher Monday on optimism that Trump can push through the market-friendly policies that helped propel a global rally at the start of the year.

After the selling earlier this month fuelled by North Korea's nuclear test, Wall Street rebounded Monday to more record peaks.

"The surge was yet another testament that the reinvigoration of the Trump trades is gaining traction," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Even a warning by Trump on Tuesday in his maiden speech before the UN General Assembly that the United States is ready to "totally destroy" North Korea failed to shake equities.

Joshua Mahony, a market analyst at online trading house IG said that there was little in the speech to make markets believe a military escalation is near.

"While Trump’s speech was strongly-worded, the fact is that this represents a redirection of Trump’s effects, away from military and in favour of democratic and political means," said Mahony.

- Key figures around 1530 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,275.25 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.02 percent at 12,567.79 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,237.44 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 3,530.34

New York - DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 22,361.70

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 2.0 percent at 20,299.38 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,051.41 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,356.84 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1969 from $1.1954 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.57 yen from 111.56 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3520 from $1.3501

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN seven cents at $55.41 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 14 cents at $50.21

burs-rl/cw