Stock markets steady as focus turns to Fed rate decision

Stock markets around the world were trading in narrow ranges Wednesday ahead of a widely predicted interest rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the potentially more interesting subsequent press conference from its chairman, Jerome Powell.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 added 0.2 percent to 5,488 while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent to 12,341. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.1 percent at 7,500. U.S. stocks were poised to open modestly higher with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.

FED WATCH: The Fed is expected to lift its key rate on Wednesday from a range of 1.75-2 percent to a still-low 2-2.25 percent. The move reflects the U.S. economy's resilient expansion amid tax cuts and government spending. There are questions, however, whether the trade dispute could hurt the outlook. Investors will keep an eye on a news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell for more clues to the Fed's views on the U.S. economy and much further interest rates are likely to rise.

ANALYST TAKE: "Today will also provide us with a host of economic projections from the Fed, shifting the focus away from the main decision and towards factors which will dictate how we see future rate decisions taking shape," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent to 24,033.79. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which reopened after a holiday, jumped 1.2 percent to 27,816.87. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.9 percent to 2,806.81. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 6,192.30.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 35 cents to $71.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 41 cents to $80.85 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.1742 while the dollar was steady at 112.97 yen.