Global stocks fall on jitters over central bank policy

Global stocks edged lower on Wednesday as investors fretted over the prospect of tighter monetary policy from major central banks.

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KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent to 12,618 while the CAC 40 of France lost 0.2 percent to 5,246. Britain's FTSE 100 edged almost 0.1 percent lower to 7,433. Dow and S&P futures were both up 0.1 percent, suggesting a tepid start to trading on Wall Street.

CENTRAL BANKING: Upbeat comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi about prospects for the 19-country eurozone were taken as a hint that policy change may be in the pipeline even though he did not mention plans to dial back stimulus measures. Meanwhile, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, in a speech in London, said she didn't foresee another financial crisis "in our lifetimes." Market watchers noted that she didn't say anything to contradict earlier statements about plans to gradually remove stimulus and raise rates if economic conditions continue to improve, indicating those plans are still on track.

MARKET INSIGHT: "The net effect of last night's speeches by Yellen and Draghi has been to reinforce a view that markets are now embarking on a phase of global policy tightening with the ECB potentially moving faster relative to the Fed than many had expected," Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary.

U.S. POLITICS: A decision by Republican leaders in the Senate to put off until after their July 4 recess a vote on a health care overhaul bill spurred a sell-off. The delay added to investor worries about political gridlock and what it could mean for President Donald Trump's plans for health care reforms and other economy-boosting measures.

ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng led declines, falling as much as 0.7 percent. By late afternoon it was down 0.6 percent at 25,683.50 while Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.5 percent to 20,130.41. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.4 percent to 2,382.56. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China lost 0.6 percent to 3,173.20, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 5,755.70. Shares fell in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia.

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ENERGY: Oil futures fell, with benchmark U.S. crude slipping 15 cents to $44.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 86 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 5 cent to $46.60 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged down to 112.13 yen from Tuesday's 112.15 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1325 after jumping to $1.1374 the previous day on Draghi's comments.