Global Benchmarks Mostly Rise, Markets Await Fed Rate Moves

TOKYO (AP) -- Global shares were mostly higher Wednesday while Chinese benchmarks surged ahead of a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve on an interest rate increase to curb inflation.

France's CAC 40 added 0.5% in early trading to 6,360.80. Germany's DAX edged up 0.2% to 13,365.98. Britain's FTSE rose 0.2% to 7,199.25. The future for the Dow industrials edged 0.2% higher, while the contract for the S&P 500 gained 0.3%.

Chinese shares extended gains, driven by speculation Beijing might be preparing to gradually relax stringent COVID-19 restrictions. Since that was not followed by any official confirmation, the enthusiasm could quickly fade.

"The power of social media and retail investors was evident after stories circled on China's zero COVID policy and if Beijing is preparing to phase it out," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

"Despite new lockdowns being announced ... a China reopening is the biggest ticket in town, and it's better to show up early rather than late to the reopening party," he said.

B ullish talk by Chinese regulators who addressed a conference of global financiers in Hong Kong also lifted sentiment.

Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, urged those attending the meeting to visit China to understand what is happening in the country and urged them not to "bet against" China and Hong Kong. He was among several senior Chinese officials who, speaking in prerecorded video addresses, downplayed risks to the economy due partly to a slump in the real estate sector.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 2.4% to 15,827.17, while the Shanghai Composite index added 1.2% to 3,003.37.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was little changed, declining less than 0.1% to finish at 27,663.39. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1% to 6,986.70. South Korea's Kospi added nearly 0.1% to 2,336.87.

South Korea's export growth fell in October as demand from China fell. Consumer price inflation rose 5.7% on year in October, in line with the market consensus.

"Sentiments in the Asia session could largely hold on to some wait-and-see as well, but eyes will remain on Chinese equities after their stellar performance yesterday," Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a report.

The Fed was due to begin a two-day policy meeting Wednesday that's expected to yield its sixth interest rate increase of the year as the central bank fights the worst inflation in four decades. The widespread expectation is for the Fed to push through another increase that's triple the usual size, or three-quarters of a percentage point.

The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings rose unexpectedly in September, suggesting the labor market is not cooling as fast as the Fed hoped for as it tries to slow economic growth while avoiding bringing on a recession.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.9%, while the Russell 2000 rose 0.3%.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 72 cents to $89.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 58 cents to $95.23 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 147.25 Japanese yen from 148.23 yen. The euro cost 98.95 cents, up from 98.78 cents.