Global stocks steady ahead of expected Fed rate hike

Global stocks steady ahead of expected Fed rate hike

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LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets traded in narrow ranges Wednesday ahead of an expected interest rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent 13,172 while France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent at 5,413. London's FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent at 7,511. On Tuesday, the CAC-40 rose 0.8 percent, the FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 7,510. U.S. stocks were poised for a flat opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

FED WATCH: The Fed is widely expected to raise on Wednesday its key interest rate for the third time this year as the U.S. economy strengthens. Investors appear confident that the economy can withstand a gradual increase in rates. However, they will be keeping a close eye on Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments during a news conference for signals on how aggressive the Fed might be in raising rates next year. Though Yellen's term as chair ends in February, she will largely be expressing the views within the wider Fed rate-setting committee.

INFLATION: Inflation figures did nothing to alter expectations of another hike. Surging gasoline prices pulled U.S. consumer inflation up 0.4 percent in November. The Labor Department said Wednesday that prices at the pump increased a sharp 7.3 percent after falling in October. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called core consumer inflation rose a more modest 0.1 percent in November.

ANALYST TAKE: "With the headline CPI inflation rate at 2.2 percent and the core rate at 1.7 percent, inflation is still a little below the Fed's comfort range, but it won't stop the FOMC announcing an interest rate hike later today," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

EUROPE: The European Central Bank and the Bank of England will have policy announcements on Thursday. Neither is expected to change rates, leaving the focus on their economic forecasts.

ASIA'S DAY: The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7 percent to 3,303.04 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.5 percent to 29,222.10. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.5 percent to 22,758.07 and Seoul's Kospi added 0.8 percent to 2,480.55. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.1 percent and India's Sensex added 0.4 percent to 33,345.06.

CURRENCY: The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.1753 while the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 113.05 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 53 cents to $57.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 76 cents to $64.10 in London.

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