Stock markets cautious ahead of release of Fed minutes

AP News
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Posted: May 20, 2015 8:46 AM
Stock markets cautious ahead of release of Fed minutes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stocks were mixed on Wednesday as investors became cautious ahead of the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent to 7,005.79 and Germany's DAX dropped 0.3 percent to 11,817.14. France's CAC 40 shed 0.2 percent to 5,105.55. Futures augured a tepid day for Wall Street. S&P 500 and Dow futures were both little changed.

FED MINUTES: The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to release minutes from its April 28-29 meeting, when it downgraded its view of the U.S. economy and offered no sign that a rate increase might be coming soon. The release of the minutes is a key event for markets as investors try to divine the timing of the U.S. central bank's first rate hike since the global financial crisis.

ASIA SCOREBOARD: Asian markets closed mostly higher after robust U.S. housing data boosted the dollar and gave a lift to exporter stocks in Japan and elsewhere. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.9 percent to 20,196.56 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.9 percent to 2,139.54. China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.7 percent to 4,446.29. Stocks in Australia and in most Southeast Asian countries also were higher. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 0.4 percent lower at 27,585.05.

US DATA: The U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts last month increased 20.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million homes. That pace ranked as the fastest clip since November 2007. The report that the U.S. homebuilders ramped up construction in April to the fastest pace in nearly seven-and-a-half years gave newfound momentum for an economy that has struggled in recent months.

THE QUOTE: The U.S. housing starts data "makes a welcome relief from the run of generally soft data on the U.S. economy for March and April," Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary. "However, the good news on housing starts brings with it the prospect of rising interest rates."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 60 cents to $58.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $2.25 on Tuesday to close at $57.99.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 120.78 yen from 120.67 yen. The euro declined to $1.1138 from $1.1147.