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Market Overview:  Federal Reserve leaves rates unchanged

US stock markets fell on Wednesday after Federal Reserve left interest rate unchanged and indicated policy makers don’t rule out a rate hike in March. The dollar weakened with live dollar index showing the ICE US Dollar index declined 0.3% to 99.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4% to 15944.64. The S&P 500 ended lower 1.1% at 1,882.95. The Fed’s statement was not as dovish as market participants had expected. Policy makers expressed confidence US economy will continue growing moderately even with “gradual” rate increases, adding they are weighing how the global economy and financial markets could affect the outlook. In an acknowledgement of increased global risks a prior reference to the risks to the economic outlook being “balanced” was dropped from the statement. Policy makers expect further improvement in job market pointing to a range of recent labor market indicators, and anticipate inflation is unlikely to rise rapidly toward the central bank’s 2% target.

In other economic news, sales of new homes rebounded in December, indicating continued strength in the housing market. Today at 14:30 CET December Durable Goods Orders will be released in US. The tentative outlook is negative. At the same time initial jobless claims and unemployment claims will be published. They are expected to decline. And at 16:00 CET December Pending Home sales will be released. The tentative outlook is positive.

European markets edged higher on Wednesday as oil prices rebounded. The euro strengthened against the dollar after the release of Federal Reserve policy statement. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.3%, Germany’s DAX 30 closed up 0.6% at 9880.82 and France’s CAC 40 added 0.5%. Energy stocks closed higher as oil prices rebounded, helping erase early losses. Royal Dutch Shell gained 2.9% as shareholders approved the company’s proposed $70 billion takeover of BG Group. Today at 10:30 CET preliminary fourth quarter GDP will be released in UK. The tentative outlook is positive for Pound. At 11:00 CET January economic and consumer confidence indexes will be released in euro-zone. At 14:00 CET January preliminary Consumer Price Inflation will be published in Germany. The tentative outlook is negative for euro.

Nikkei fell 0.7% today as investors awaited the conclusion of Bank of Japan’s policy meeting on Friday amid concerns about global slowdown. Tomorrow the Bank of Japan will announce its monetary policy statement, and recent market turmoil has given rise to expectations of further expansion of monetary stimulus program by the central bank. Chinese shares fell today in light trading as selloff resumed, while China’s central bank offered 340 billion yuan or $51.89 billion of short-term loans to commercial banks in a routine money market operation Thursday.

Oil futures prices are falling today after gaining over 3% on Wednesday buoyed by expectations that Russia and OPEC may cooperate on output cuts. Prices got support also from US government data showing domestic oil production declined by 14,000 barrels a day to total 9.22 million barrels a day. March Brent crude gained 4.1% to $33.10 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. However, traders are focusing now on bigger-than-expected build-up in US crude inventories which climbed by 8.4 million barrels against expectations for a rise of 3.3 million barrels.

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