Global shares mostly higher before Fed meeting, Biden speech

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TOKYO (AP) — Global shares were moderately higher in listless trading Wednesday, as investors watched for news out of a Federal Reserve meeting.

France’s CAC 40 gained 0.3% in early trading to 6,291.87, while Germany’s DAX edged up 0.2% to 15,279.81. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2% to 6,961.41. The future for the Dow industrials slipped 0.1% to 33,834, and S&P 500 futures rose 0.1% to 4,182.12.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.2% to finish at 29,053.97, while South Korea’s Kospi slipped 1.1% to 3,181.47. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4% to 7,064.70. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.5% to 29,071.34, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.4% to 3,457.07.

Analysts said Asian investors have adopted a wait-and-see stance ahead of the Fed meeting.

“But the wider point and the bigger driver of markets, as equities shuffled nervously ahead of the FOMC meeting today, is arguably just how much restraint the Fed will exercise,” said Venkateswaran Lavanya at Mizuho Bank.

Also on tap is President Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress, which is expected to lay out several parts of his agenda such as increased infrastructure spending, likely higher taxes on the wealthy and higher funding for government programs.

The slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations in some parts of Asia, including Japan, and a surge of cases in India are adding to continued worries about the pandemic, in contrast with vaccination progress in the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Japan has declared a state of emergency in some urban areas, trying to curb travel, crowds and the spread of infections, as the country heads to a series of national holidays called Golden Week.

Investors expect U.S. corporate results due out this week to show stronger profits as more people are vaccinated and increase their spending. Global investors are gauging how companies fared during the first quarter and any other information that can help paint a clearer picture of where the economy is headed.

The Federal Reserve started a two-day policy meeting Tuesday. Investors expect the U.S. central bank to keep its key lending rate close to zero and inject more money into the financial system through bond purchases.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 9 cents to $62.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 13 cents to $66.29 a barrel.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar fell to 108.85 Japanese yen from 108.92 yen. The euro cost $1.2075, down from $1.2091.