AP and AFP
BEIJING/HONG KONG–Global stocks were mixed Wednesday as investors looked ahead to a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting after Japan’s central bank left monetary policy unchanged despite signs of weaker economic growth. Oil fell below US$101 as markets shrugged off new sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis. In Europe, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.4 percent to 4,479.66, while the Dax in Germany shed 0.2 percent to 9,564.99. In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average future was off 0.1 percent in pre-market trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. The future for the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.2 percent. Asian markets were mixed Wednesday as the Bank of Japan (BOJ) announced it was standing pat on its stimulus programme, even as its policy-makers revised down growth expectations for the world’s number three economy. Tokyo’s Nikkei edged up 0.11 percent, or 15.88 points, to finish at 14,304.11. In line with jittery investors’ expectations, the BOJ announced Wednesday that it was holding fire on expanding its massive asset-purchase scheme as it awaits the effects of a sales tax rise at the start of April. But after Japanese markets closed the central bank announced that it had lowered its growth expectations for the current fiscal year, fuelling hopes for fresh stimulus measures later in the year. Hong Kong sank 1.42 percent, or 319.92 points, to end at 22,133.97, while Seoul slipped 0.15 percent, or 2.98 points, to close at 1,961.79. Shanghai added 0.30 percent, or 6.02 points, to 2,026.36 on the last day of the week’s trading before a public holiday. Sydney was flat, nudging up 2.5 points to 5,489.1. Analysts said Japan would likely be forced to ramp up its monetary easing at some point to counter a downturn. “While the Bank of Japan left policy settings unchanged today, we still think more easing will be announced in the second half of the year,” said Marcel Thieliant, an economist at London-based Capital Economics. BOJ policymakers, in their closely-watched semi-annual outlook gauging the median of members’ views, predicted that Japan’s economy would grow 1.1 percent in the year to March owing to tepid data and a sales tax rise introduced on April 1, which has fuelled fears about the nation’s recovery. The BOJ’s view that inflation would come in at 1.3 percent over the same period was unchanged. Focus on Federal Reserve meeting
In New York trade the Dow and S&P 500 enjoyed a second-straight pick-up Tuesday after last week’s sell-off, despite a mixed bag of corporate earnings and economic data. The Dow rose 0.53 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.48 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.72 percent. Data due for release this week include manufacturing activity around the world and U.S. non-farm payrolls, which will provide a clearer idea about the country’s recovery. Gold fetched US$1,292.64 an ounce at 1050 GMT compared with US$1,290.38 on Tuesday.