World stocks muted as investors keep eye on Fed

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Global markets were lackluster Wednesday as investors waited for the release of the minutes to the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest meeting and took stock of a torrid start to the year.

The Fed will release the minutes to its January policy meeting later in the day and traders will be keen to see if it reveals any inclination to slow down the pace at which it reins back on its stimulus program.

By the close in Europe, Germany's DAX was flat at 9,660.05 while France's CAC 40 was up 0.2 percent to 4,341.10. Britain's FTSE 100 ended flat at 6,796.71.

Wall Street eked out gains after a sluggish open, with the Dow 0.4 percent higher at 16,188.41 and the S&P 500 up 0.2 percent at 1,844.67.

Economic data out of the U.S. was uninspiring, with housing construction down 16 percent in January, mainly due to severe winter weather.

Stocks made impressive gains last year but sold off sharply in the opening weeks of 2014. Some of January's losses have been recouped, and investors are assessing future moves, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

"After the recent bull run there is some consolidation, but the market is still positive," Yip said.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.5 percent to 14,766.53 after a 3.1 percent gain the day before when the Bank of Japan topped up its already lavish monetary stimulus by doubling the size of funds to support bank lending and economic growth.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 22,664.52. Traders were awaiting earnings reports from such heavyweights as banking giant HSBC.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent. Indexes rose in Australia, New Zealand, mainland China, Indonesia and most other regional markets.

The benchmark U.S. oil contract for March delivery was up 33 cents to $102.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2.13 overnight to $102.43.

In currencies, the euro was flat around $1.3751 and the dollar slipped 0.1 percent to 102.26 yen.