Global Markets Steady After Latest Fed Statement

Global stock markets were steady Thursday with investors digesting the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy statement, in which it didn't give a clear signal on when it would raise interest rates.

Around halfway through the European trading session, the Stoxx Europe 600 was just 0.6% higher.

U.S. stocks rose Wednesday in response to the Fed, with both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average advancing 0.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite closing 0.4% riser. On Thursday, however, futures contracts showed the S&P 500 opening slightly lower. Futures don't always accurately predict moves after the opening bell.

Many investors had expected the Fed to raise interest rates as early as September but Wednesday's statement from the central bank flagged concerns that inflation remains too low.

"Traders have no solid reason to buy into the market," said David Madden, an analyst at brokerage IG.

"Dealers have a short-term mind-set, and as soon as they heard nothing to warrant an interest rate hike in the immediate future they jumped on the bandwagon, but it was short lived, and the statement wasn't so dovish it would justify fresh buying today," he added.

Peter Chatwell, a rates strategist at Mizuho, said a September rate rise may still be on the table but that the timing depended on economic data over the next few weeks.

A first reading for second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest sum of goods and services produced across the economy, is due Thursday.

Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of fundamental fixed income at BlackRock, wrote in a note to clients that he still thinks that September's meeting is the most likely date for a rate rise, but that the pace of any increase is much more important than the timing of the first move.

"And in terms of pace and destination, the Fed has been unambiguously clear that the path of rate change will be gradual," he added.

In Europe, the earnings season was in sharp focus.

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC rose after the lender reported a rise in second-quarter net profit.

Shares in Royal Dutch Shell PLC rallied too. The oil company reported a sharp fall in second-quarter profit and said it would cut 6,500 jobs, illustrating the strain that sustained low oil prices are putting on large producers.

Analysts at Jefferies in a note reiterated their 'hold' recommendation on Shell's stock citing the company's cost-reduction efforts.

Separately, Shell said it had agreed to sell a 33.2% stake in its Japanese oil refining unit, Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, to Japan's Idemitsu Kosan Co for Yen169 billion, or $1.4 billion.

Elsewhere, Nokia Oyj shares rose more than 8% before falling back slightly. The Finnish company reported a better-than-expected second-quarter profit boosted by significantly higher software sales, which offset challenging market conditions.

In Asia on Thursday, the Shanghai Composite closed down 2.2% after snapping a three-day losing streak on Wednesday, while the Nikkei Stock Average ended the session up 1.1%, helped by a weaker yen.

Elsewhere in currency markets, the euro edged lower against the dollar to $1.097. In debt markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was at 2.31% compared with 2.29% just before the Fed statement. Yields on German, Italian and Spanish 10-year bonds were broadly steady. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Brent crude was 1.5% higher at $54.17 per barrel. Gold lost 0.7% to trade at $1,084.90 per troy ounce.