Global stocks steady as Fed minutes fail to sway investors

LONDON (AP) " Global stock markets were trading in narrow ranges Thursday after the minutes to the last policymaking meeting of the Federal Reserve failed to provide much of a steer as to the timing of the U.S. central bank's next interest rate increase.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.1 percent at 7,294 while Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent to 11,981. The CA 40 in France bucked the trend somewhat to trade 0.1 percent higher at 4,890. U.S. stocks were poised for a steady opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures unchanged.

RATE HORIZON: At their meeting last month, Federal Reserve officials discussed the need to raise a key interest rate again "fairly soon," especially if the world's No. 1 economy maintains its strength, according to the minutes. Analysts said next week's official U.S. jobs figures for February could have a major impact on the prospects of a rate hike as soon as March.

ANALYST TAKE: "It was always likely that the Fed would want to keep its policy options open, fiscal policy uncertainties notwithstanding, which is why last night's minutes from the January Fed meeting were unlikely to add anything new to what we already knew, that a rate hike was coming 'fairly soon'," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost less than 0.1 percent to close at 19,371.46 and South Korea's Kospi finished 0.1 percent higher at 2,107.63. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 24,114.86 and the Shanghai Composite index retreated 0.3 percent to 3,251.38. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,784.70.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose 0.2 percent to $1.0564 while the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 112.92 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures rebounded, rising 76 cents to $54.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, rose 81 cents to $56.85 a barrel in London.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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