Global stock markets drift as weak US earnings add to growth concerns ahead of Fed statement

EnergyAssociated Press

Global stocks drifted Wednesday after weak earnings from several U.S. companies added to global growth concerns as investors waited for the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest statement on monetary policy.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent to 4,627.12 and France's CAC 40 added 0.1 percent to 4,626.85. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.1 percent to 6,820.75. Wall Street looked set for a mixed session following the previous day's declines. Dow futures were down 0.1 percent at 17,361 while S&P 500 futures gained 0.2 percent to 2,033.80.

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US ECONOMY: Wall Street slumped Tuesday after companies including Microsoft, Caterpillar and Procter & Gamble reported disappointing earnings. Lower orders for durable goods fueled concern about the American economy's ability to drive earnings if global growth weakens. The Fed ends its first policy meeting of 2015 on Wednesday and is widely expected to repeat its pledge to be patient in raising interest rates from record lows. Inflation has fallen further below the Fed's target rate, thanks to plunging oil prices and a surging dollar that makes imports cheaper.

THE QUOTE: "The impact of global growth is slowly starting to be reflected in corporate earnings with an underwhelming reporting session in the US setting the tone for global markets," IG strategist Stan Shamu said in a commentary. The weak earnings "set off the alarm bells and resulted in investors exercising caution ahead of the results from the Fed meeting which concludes today," he said. "Not much change is expected from the Fed after the detailed commentary from the last meeting."

ASIA'S DAY: The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 1.4 percent to 3,305.74. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 percent to 17,795.73 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 24,861.81. Seoul's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 1,961.58 and Sydney, New Zealand and Bangkok also rose. Benchmarks in Taiwan, India and Singapore declined.

EUROPE: Greece's new left-wing prime minister picked a critic of European Union bailout terms as his finance minister, signaling his resolve to push for lenders to write off part of its debt. But concern about a confrontation between the European Union and the newly elected Syriza party, which vowed to end painful austerity measures, eased after both sides said they were open to negotiation.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 54 cents to $45.69 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.08 on Tuesday to close at $46.23. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 50 cents to $49.10 after gaining $1.44 on Tuesday.

CURRENCY: The dollar fell to 117.73 yen from Tuesday's 117.80 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1336 from the previous session's $1.1362.