Global stocks up modestly as focus turns to central banks

By IndustriesAssociated Press

Global stock markets eked out some modest gains Wednesday as investors turned their attention to upcoming central bank meetings in Japan and Europe.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent at 7,405 while the CAC 40 of France rose 0.2 percent to 5,183. Germany's DAX was 0.1 percent higher at 12,444. Wall Street looked set for a tepid start, with both the Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures unchanged.

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CENTRAL BANKS: Amid a dearth of market-driving news, investors are awaiting policy decisions Thursday from the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan. Few fireworks are expected. The ECB is expected to tread softly as it inches toward scaling back its monetary stimulus in the form of 60 billion euros ($69 billion) in monthly bond purchases. Japan's central bank, likewise, is not expected to make any drastic moves, given recent subdued data on inflation and consumer sentiment.

CHINA-US: Top economic officials of the world's two biggest economies meet Wednesday in Washington for the first session of the China-U.S. Comprehensive Dialogue. The outcome of the talks will likely provide a sense of the direction relations will take as President Donald Trump seeks to deliver on promises to reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

ANALYST COMMENT: "With a lack of tier-1 data in the day, the market could find eyes shifting to the rebranded U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue today," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. "It has been interesting to note that the U.S. had once again exerted pressure ahead of the meeting highlighting expectations and the market is expected to keep a keen eye on the event."

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index edged 0.1 percent higher to 20,020.86 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.6 percent to 26,672.16. The S&P ASX 200 in Australia jumped 0.8 percent to 5,732.10, while the Shanghai Composite index added 1.4 percent to 3,230.98. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,429.94. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.1527 while the dollar was unchanged at 112 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 16 cents to $46.56 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, the international standard, gained 23 cents to $49.07 per barrel.