World stocks uneven ahead of European Central Bank meeting

HONG KONG - World stocks markets traded unevenly Wednesday on investor uncertainty over whether European Central Bank policymakers would follow through on promises to help revive flagging growth at a policy meeting this week.

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KEEPING SCORE: European stocks were moderately higher in early trading, with France's CAC 40 rising 0.4 per cent to 4,423.46 and Germany's DAX adding 0.4 per cent to 9,727.59. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 per cent to 6,130.56. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher, with Dow futures adding 0.3 per cent to 17,028.00 and broader S&P 500 futures up 1,986.40.

ECB IN FOCUS: Investors are focused on the European Central Bank's policy meeting on Thursday. Many analysts expect the bank to open the stimulus taps further based on hints from ECB chief Mario Draghi and economic data that showed inflation across the 19-country eurozone has slipped under zero. The ECB could send deposit rates further into negative territory or step up a bond buying program. The most likely scenario is a cut to deposit rates, which could give banks an incentive to lend more.

QUOTEWORTHY: "The market has already priced in this expectation (of further ECB stimulus). However if this doesn't happen tomorrow then we will see more volatility following the disappointment and the euro will also feel under pressure," said Margaret Yang, an analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore. "Some traders, they may be more cautious and stay away from the markets right now and wait for after the ECB's decision to get into the markets."

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.8 per cent to close at 16,642.20 while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 per cent to end at 1,952.95 after recovering early losses. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.1 per cent to 19,996.26 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China retreated 1.3 per cent to 2,862.56. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1 per cent to 5,157.20, while markets in Southeast Asia were mixed.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 41 cents to $36.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.40 to settle at $36.50 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 61 cents to $40.27 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 112.51 yen from 112.58 yen. The euro weakened to $1.0973 from $1.0998.



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