Stock markets retreat awaiting Fed


Stock markets mostly dipped on Wednesday, with investors looking ahead to the outcome of the Federal Reserve's latest interest-rate meeting.

In Europe, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index and the Paris CAC 40 were both modestly lower at the closing bell, but Frankfurt eked out a tiny gain a day after going over 12,500 points for the first time.

In New York approaching midday the Dow was marginally lower "with caution appearing in the markets ahead of today's monetary policy decision from the Fed", analysts at Charles Schwab said.

Sentiment was hit by data showing that private-sector hiring slowed last month in the United States.

Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) shares were in focus, off early lows but still down by around 1.2 percent, after the tech giant reported a mixed set of results, which had investors worried because of lower iPhone sales.

"Apple's results were far from a disaster but just didn't quite meet the huge expectations," said Jasper Lawler, analyst at London Capital Group.

Among major European companies reporting earnings, Germany's Volkswagen (IOB: 0P6N.IL - news) confirmed its forecasts for 2017 after boosting revenue and profits in the first quarter, even as its emissions cheating scandal continues to make headlines. Its shares were down 1.0 percent at the close.

- 'No chance' of rate hike -

The Federal Reserve opened its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday amid signs of softening US inflation which eases the pressure to raise interest rates, meaning the benchmark lending rate will probably remain in the current target range of 0.75 percent to one percent.

Most economists say the Fed is likely to hike interest rates twice more this year, probably in June and September.

With Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all closed for public holidays business was thin across Asia, despite another record close for the Nasdaq (Frankfurt: 813516 - news) on Wall Street, as traders await cues from the Fed.

"With (Other OTC: WWTH - news) the big slip in data recently there is no chance they raise rates," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Minutes from the bank's March meeting showed that the policy board was considering tightening monetary policy by sucking cash out of the financial system, a disclosure which spooked investors early last month.

Friday sees the next key event when the US government releases jobs figures for April, which will be used by the Fed to gauge when it will next raise borrowing costs.

Data released Wednesday by payroll firm ADP showed that nonfarm private employment rose by 177,000, below the 255,000 increase in March, and the lowest increase since October.

On foreign exchange markets, the euro was down against the dollar ahead of Sunday's second round of France's presidential election, in which moderate Emmanuel Macron is expected to beat his far-right, anti-EU opponent Marine Le Pen (Other OTC: PENC - news) .

Crude prices remained under pressure after the US government reported a much smaller fall in oil stocks than analysts had expected.

Both oil futures contracts had already tumbled more than two percent Tuesday on news that US production was rising and Libya had ramped up output.

French oil giant Total (LSE: 524773.L - news) meanwhile lost the top market capitalisation spot in the Paris CAC 40 index on Wednesday, making way for luxury behemoth LVMH.

- Key figures around 1540 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,234.53 points(close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 12,527.84 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,301.00 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 3,586.25

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 20,918.30

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,135.35 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0916 from $1.0925 at 2050 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2909 from $1.2932

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.31 yen from 112.04 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 7 cents at $50.39 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2 cents at $47.64