LONDON: World stock markets diverged Wednesday after a tepid performance on Wall Street, with all eyes on the US Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate decision.
Fed policymakers are widely expected to hold borrowing costs – but their statement and comments by boss Jerome Powell will be pored over for clues about their thinking ahead of their next gathering in March.
Investors are hoping the Fed will begin cutting rates soon after hiking them to their highest level in more than two decades to combat inflation.
London and Paris rose but Frankfurt fell near the half-way stage, after a mixed showing in Asia. The dollar edged higher against the euro and yen.
European shares touch fresh two-year highs
“Markets are eagerly anticipating today’s meeting from the Federal Reserve with traders looking for signs over whether a March rate cut is plausible,” said Joshua Mahony, chief market analyst at Scope Markets.
“With inflation elevated and the US economy growing at a healthy clip, the justification for a cut in just over seven weeks is questionable as things stand.”
Investors this week will also digest a key Treasury auction, US jobs figures and earnings from some of the world’s biggest companies including Apple and Amazon, while the Bank of England reveals its latest rate decision on Thursday.
That all comes as the crisis surrounding China’s fallen property titan Evergrande casts a shadow and stokes economic worries about the key energy consuming nation, sending oil prices sharply lower on Wednesday.
Wall Street was also mixed on Tuesday. While the Dow clocked up another record in New York, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq went into reverse as a forecast-beating read on US job openings reinforced the view that the labour market remained resilient – despite interest rates sitting at two-decade highs.
With consumer confidence at a more than two-year high and inflation expectations falling, traders are worried the Fed will not cut borrowing costs as much as had been expected a few weeks ago.
“A rate cut has not been pegged any earlier than March so all the focus will be on the messaging which accompanies the announcement,” added AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.