LONDON -- World stock markets were tentative Friday as investors prepared for the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision next week on whether to reduce its monetary stimulus.
Strong U.S. economic data and signs of an imminent budget agreement in Congress have reinforced expectations that the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Dec. 17-18 might decide to start reducing its $85 billion worth of monthly financial asset purchases.
The U.S. stimulus has buoyed stocks over the past few years, and its potential reduction has jolted markets in recent months. However, any tapering is expected to be accompanied by a renewed commitment by the Fed to keep interest rates low. That, analysts say, helps explain why stock markets are still trading at relative highs and why bond markets aren’t too volatile.
"The unwinding of unconventional monetary policy is a good thing long term. However it will cause short-term vibrations," said Evan Lucas, a strategist for Australia’s IG Markets, in a report.
In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 shed 0.1 percent to 6,439.96 and France’s CAC 40 lost 0.2 percent to 4,059.71. Germany’s DAX dropped 0.1 percent to 9,006.46.
On Wall Street, the Dow rose 0.2 percent to 15,766.71 while the S&P 500 was up 0.1 percent to 1,777.70.
Asia’s heavyweight market benchmark, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225, rose 0.4 percent to 15,403.11 and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Sydney also rose. Shanghai and Seoul declined.
Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore gained but markets fell in Thailand, Malaysia and Jakarta, which might be more exposed if a reduction in the Fed’s stimulus hurts U.S. demand for imports or sparks short-term capital flight from Asian economies.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 23,245.96. Taiwan’s Taiex added 0.2 percent to 8,376.44 and Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 5,098.4. China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.3 percent to 2,196.07.
Benchmark crude oil for January delivery was off $1.08 at $96.42 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 6 cents on Thursday to settle at $97.50.
In currency markets, the dollar rose to 103.25 yen from 103.56 yen the day before. The euro gained to $1.3728 from $1.3745.