By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stock markets inched higher on Tuesday and the dollar dipped as investors awaited signals from the U.S. Federal Reserve on when it will hike interest rates again and start shrinking its balance sheet.
All three major U.S. stock indexes hit record closing highs, with financial shares providing the biggest boost.
Tuesday marked the start of a two-day meeting of the U.S. central bank. The Fed is widely expected to keep rates steady on Wednesday but announce that it will begin paring its bond holdings, with reductions likely to start in the coming months.
Investors will be watching for signals that the Fed will raise rates in December, and for any clues on personnel changes as the end of Fed Chair Janet Yellen's term approaches and after the resignation of Vice Chair Stanley Fischer earlier this month.
"The quiet nature of (the market) is in anticipation of the Fed meeting. Janet Yellen has a press conference, and that and the statement will perhaps provide some insight into what they're going to do in terms of deleveraging their balance sheet," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
"There's some concern among investors as to how this will work, and how it will affect long-term rates."
The Fed's possible move to roll stimulus back further has not stemmed the greenback's weakness this year as other major central banks are considering steps either to slow their bond purchases or raise interest rates. As the Fed rolled out its three separate rounds of massive purchases, stocks shot up, while the dollar sank along with yields on U.S. debt.
The dollar had weakened against the yen ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's speech before the United Nations General Assembly. In his speech, Trump warned that the United States will be forced to "totally destroy" North Korea unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear program, but the criticism was not enough to spook investors.
The greenback was just 0.1 percent lower at 111.47 yen (JPY=), below its eight-week peak of 111.87 set earlier on Tuesday.
The dollar index (.DXY), which ranks the greenback versus six other major currencies, fell 0.24 percent.
U.S. data showing domestic home construction fell for a second straight month in August weighed on the dollar index earlier.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 39.45 points, or 0.18 percent, to end at 22,370.8, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 2.78 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,506.65 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 6.68 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,461.32.
The S&P financial index (.SPSY) gained 0.8 percent ahead of the Fed statement.
"As that balance sheet drops, that's potentially going to leave us with higher long-term rates. That's why financials have found some strength," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist for LPL Financial.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3) closed up 0.1 percent, while MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> gained 0.21 percent and hit a record closing high as well.
Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei (.N225) surged 2 percent to its highest close in more than two years as investors drew confidence from a weakening yen and hopes of a snap election underpinned the market.
In the U.S. bond market, yields rose slightly. Benchmark 10-year notes
In energy markets, oil prices retreated from near-five-month highs ahead of this week's meeting between key oil producers on the outlook for further supply cuts. Late in the New York day, the American Petroleum Institute industry group said U.S. crude stocks rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week to Sept. 15.
U.S. crude (CLcv1) fell 43 cents to settle at $49.48 a barrel, while Brent (LCOcv1) declined 34 cents to settle at $55.14.
(For a graphic on world market-cap, click http://reut.rs/2pHTxif)
(Additional reporting by Karen Brettell and Sinead Carew in New York; and Marc Jones and John Geddie in London; Editing by Dan Grebler and Nick Zieminski)