SINGAPORE (AP) -- World stock markets retreated Thursday after U.S. central bank policymakers made no firm decision on when to unwind their support measures for the economy.
France's CAC 40 fell 2.8% to 6,580.19 in early trading while Britain's FTSE 100 lost 2.3% to 7,006.74. The DAX in Germany dropped 1.8% to 15,673.06.
Wall Street was positioned for a lower open. Futures of the benchmark S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9%, to 4,356.50 and 34,568.00 respectively.
The lack of a directive from the Federal Reserve fueled worries over surging coronavirus infections caused by the delta variant, and the pandemic's impact on consumer spending and jobs growth.
Minutes of the Fed's July 27-28 meeting, released Wednesday, indicated that most officials in attendance thought it was “appropriate” to begin reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.
This is “provided that the economy were to evolve broadly as they anticipated,” according to the minutes.
The Fed's purchases were meant to lower long-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending. It includes Treasury and mortgage bond buying, which now amounts to $120 billion a month. However, officials stopped short of setting a firm timeline.
“The minutes only emphasized the central bankers' uncertainty about the path of the economy and monetary policy heading into 2022,” Matt Weller, global head of research at FOREX.com and City Index, wrote in a note.
“Taken together, the initial read through of the minutes paints a mixed picture: while most Fed policymakers are expecting to start tapering this year, there were still several who would prefer to wait for next year,” he said.
The focus has shifted to next week's Jackson Hole Symposium. Traders will scrutinize Fed Chair Jerome Powell's keynote speech for hints about the timing of a taper announcement, Weller added.
In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 1.1% to 27,281.17. The Kospi in South Korea lost 1.9% to 3,097.83 and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6% to 3,465.55.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 2.1% at 25,316.33. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.5% to 7,464.60.
Losses were recorded throughout the Asia-Pacific region except in New Zealand and the Philippines.
Chinese tech stocks tumbled on fears of tighter regulation. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group shares in Hong Kong sank 5.5%. Internet search giant Baidu Inc. fell 2.4%. The companies' U.S.-listed shares were set for early losses.
“Eventually, Chinese equity prices will fall to levels that offset the multitude of governmental risks they now face. That process has not finished yet,” said Jeffrey Halley of OANDA.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.22 to $63.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price standard for international oils, lost $1.92 to $66.31 per barrel in London.
A surprise rise in U.S. gasoline inventories has more than offset a drop in its crude stockpile, Venkateswaran Lavanya of Mizuho Bank said.
“This underpins concerns that delta risks may be getting in the way of travel,” she added.
Meanwhile, the dollar eased to 109.60 yen from Wednesday's 109.76 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1690 from $1.1721.