World Economy

World Stock Markets Focus on Fed, UK Budget

World Stock Markets Focus on Fed, UK BudgetWorld Stock Markets Focus on Fed, UK Budget

Global investors traded cautiously on Wednesday ahead of a monetary policy announcement in the United States and an annual budget in Britain.

Investors hope that the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting will provide some guidance on its plans for interest rates this year, Fin24 reported.

“European equity markets are trading little changed to moderately higher ... awaiting today’s (Fed) meeting and the UK’s budget announcement,” said trader Markus Huber at brokerage City of London Markets.

Europe’s markets steadied as investors also digested news that Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange have agreed terms on their planned blockbuster merger to create one of the world’s biggest exchanges.

Oil prices also recovered after a sharp two-day sell-off, although there is growing nervousness over talks between key producers about a possible output freeze aimed at addressing a global supply glut.

With few other catalysts to drive trade, investors played it safe before the end of the Fed meeting and a statement from its head, Janet Yellen.

While no new measures are expected from the meeting, Yellen’s comments will be pored over for clues to policymakers’ thinking after December’s first interest rate rise in almost a decade.

That rise was followed by two months of wild volatility across global markets that wiped trillions off valuations.

Rate increases can weigh on stocks because they make borrowing marginally more expensive, and that has the potential to slow economic activity.

Meanwhile in Britain, Finance Minister George Osborne will present his latest austerity budget.

The Conservative government’s finance chief is expected to deliver another $5.7 billion of cuts.

In European trading, Germany’s DAX rose 0.5%. Japan’s Nikkei is down 0.83%. Dow and S&P 500 futures are essentially flat.

Back in Asia on Wednesday, Hong Kong stocks closed 0.2% lower.

Shanghai ended up 0.2% for its fourth straight gain, after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the close of the National People’s Congress the economy would not suffer a hard landing.

Sydney gained 0.2% and Seoul was 0.3% higher.

Tokyo finished 0.8% lower, despite a weaker yen that came after the Bank of Japan defended its negative interest rate policy and hinted at further cuts aimed at kickstarting lending.