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World stock markets rise as Fed's decision awaited

Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press

A woman walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. Most Asian stock markets edged up Tuesday, with some indexes regaining slight losses after opening in directionless trading ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- World stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday as investors calmly waited for word from the U.S. Federal Reserve on when it will start reducing its monetary stimulus.

Few expect that the Fed will announce that it plans to pare back, or "taper," its huge bond-buying program after its two-day policy meeting wraps up in Washington on Wednesday. However, good news on the U.S. economy this month, including a blockbuster jobs report, and a budget deal appeared to have increased the likelihood of a change.

The Fed's $85 billion of monthly bond purchases have kept U.S. interest rates low to encourage economic recovery, but also sent a flood of money into stock markets worldwide in search of higher returns.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 2 percent higher at 15,587.80, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.3 percent to 23,243.82. China's Shanghai Composite index edged down 0.1 percent to 2,148.29,and South Korea's Kospi finished 0.5 percent higher, at 1,974.63.

In Southeast Asia, bourses in Indonesia and the Philippines rose. The benchmarks were slightly lower in Singapore and Malaysia.

India's Sensex rose 1.3 percent to 20,873.14 after a six-day slump after being cheered by the Reserve Bank of India's decision not to raise interest rates.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.3 percent at 6,505.87, France's CAC-40 climbed 0.4 percent to 4,084.43, and Germany's DAX was higher by 0.6 percent, at 9,135.67

U.S. stock futures augur a higher opening on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial futures were up 0.3 percent at 15,911. The Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.2 percent to 3,472.75.

"Everything boils down to the FOMC meeting and (Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke's press conference 30 minutes later," said Chris Weston of IG Markets Limited in Melbourne, Australia. The Federal Open Market Committee is the Fed's policy-setting committee.

He said traders in Asia were generally positioned for the Fed meeting and "there has been no panic at all, with good, orderly and two-way business from clients."

"While the key rate is expected to remain unchanged, the attention will be focused on the Fed's move on taper," Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a market commentary. "Markets are generally expecting the Fed to wind down asset purchases in (the first quarter of) 2014, but recent developments suggest that taper in December cannot be ruled out."

In energy markets, benchmark crude for January delivery gained 32 cents to $97.54 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 26 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $97.22 a barrel on Tuesday.

The euro fell to $1.3767 from $1.3771 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 102.93 yen from 102.62 yen.