World stock markets mixed ahead of Fed meeting


BANGKOK (AP) — World shares were mixed Tuesday ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s first interest rate meeting of the year and as concerns lingered China will take new moves to cool economic growth.

Oil prices hung below $88 a barrel, extending losses after the Saudi oil minister hinted the world’s biggest oil producer may raise supplies to put the brakes on higher oil prices. In currencies, the dollar fell against the yen but rose against the euro.

European stocks were mixed in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 was marginally lower at 5,940.47. Germany’s DAX rose by 0.2 percent to 7,084.74 and France’s CAC-40 was up 0.3 percent to 4,043.60.

Wall Street was headed for a lower opening after gains the day before. Dow futures were down 0.2 percent to 11,909. Broader S&P 500 futures were down by 0.2 percent to 1,285.50.

Asian stocks presented a mixed picture. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average added 1.2 percent to close at 10,464.42 after the Bank of Japan kept its key interest rate unchanged at virtually zero, hoping to protect a still-fragile economy from veering off track. Exporters rose as Wall Street optimism offset a stronger yen. Sony Corp. jumped 2.3 percent and Canon Inc. gained 0.7 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 2,086.67. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 4,807.80. Sentiment was bolstered by the country’s latest inflation reading, which fell below expectations and reduced the chances of a rate hike by the Australian central bank.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped less than 0.1 percent to 23,788.83. Indexes in Singapore, India and Thailand were also down.

Shares on mainland China were notably down as investors continued to worry about further attempts by the government to slow growth as it tries to get inflation under control.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent to 2,677.43 and the Shenzhen Composite Index for China’s smaller, second market was down 1.2 percent to 1,136.58.

The Dow’s rise gave stocks a boost but Chinese shares are "capping Asia momentum," said Castor Pang, research director at Cinda International.

"The worry is still there in China, especially if they (investors) guess inflation in January and February is still high," which could mean that authorities may announce an interest rate hike around Chinese New Year, Pang said. The holiday starts Feb. 3.

Figures last week showed growth picked up in the fourth quarter to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in the previous quarter. The government also reported the inflation rate at 4.6 percent in December.

Investors had other factors to weigh Tuesday. Later in the day, the U.S. Federal Reserve was to start a two-day meeting to discuss interest rates. Few expect any major shifts, even though two new members to the Fed’s policymaking panel have been skeptics of the Fed’s $600 billion Treasury bond purchase plan to help stimulate the economy.

Also Tuesday, some major U.S. companies will release quarterly earnings, including: E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co.; Johnson & Johnson; United States Steel Corp.; and Yahoo Inc.

In New York on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed within 20 points of 12,000 Monday, its highest point since June 2008.

Technology stocks rose after Intel Corp. increased its dividend and said it would buy back more of its stock. The company gained 2 percent.

The Dow gained 108.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,980.52. The last time the average closed above 12,000 was June 19, 2008.

The broader Standard and Poor’s 500 index rose 7.49, or 0.6 percent, to 1,290.84. The Nasdaq composite gained 28.01, or 1 percent, to 2,717.55.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 82.39 yen from 82.49 yen late Monday. The euro dropped to $1.3593 from $1.3638.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 19 cents at $87.68 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.24 to settle at $87.87 a barrel on Monday.


Associated Press business writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed.