Markets leaden-footed ahead of raft of US news

With much of Europe on holiday, global markets muted ahead of raft of US economic news

Associated Press
US economic fears weigh on markets ahead of Fed
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Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, works with traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, April 29, 2013. World stock markets were mostly higher Tuesday April 30, 2013, brushing off tepid Japanese manufacturing data a day after the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at another all-time high. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

LONDON (AP) -- With a large chunk of Europe on holiday, financial markets were lead-footed Wednesday ahead of a raft of U.S. economic news, which culminates with a policy statement from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed ends its two-day meeting midway through the U.S. trading session. Investors will be interested to see if the tone of the subsequent statement has changed significantly from the last one in March. A mixed bag of economic data since the last meeting has raised expectations that the Fed will persevere with its super-easy and cheap monetary policy for a bit longer than had been anticipated.

"The only thing for markets to focus on will be any changes to nuances of the language in the Fed statement on the economy," said Michael Hewson, senior markets analyst at CMC Markets.

Before the Fed statement, investors will have the monthly private payrolls report from ADP to digest as well as the closely-watched manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management.

Both are top-tier releases especially in the run-up to the Fed statement and Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for April, which often sets the market tone for a week or two.

Ahead of all that U.S. news, trading was subdued especially as most European markets were closed for the May Day holiday. The only major stock index in Europe open was Britain's FTSE 100, which was trading 0.6 percent higher at 6,468.

In the U.S., both the Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures were 0.1 percent higher, though how they will open could hinge on the data releases.

The dollar's fortunes could also rest on the economic news. Ahead of them, it was fairly weak, with the euro up 0.2 percent at $1.3192 and the dollar 0.5 percent lower at 97.41 yen.

The yen's appreciation weighed on the Nikkei 225 index, which fell 0.4 percent to close at 13,799.35. Japan's exporters have seen their share prices shoot up over the past few weeks on the back of the yen's fall which makes their products more competitive in international markets.

The tone in Asia was generally subdued after a survey showed the pace of China's manufacturing growth slowed in April, raising fears of a weaker recovery in the world's second-largest economy. Chinese markets were closed though so couldn't react to the news.

Oil prices dipped following a strong run, with the benchmark New York rate down 77 cents at $92.69 a barrel.

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