World Shares are Mixed as Markets Await a Rate Decision by the Fed

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian shares closed mostly higher while European markets opened lower Wednesday as investors awaited the latest signals from the Federal Reserve on the timing of cuts to interest rates.

The FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.1% to 7,729.13 after British inflation in February came in below expectations at 3.4%, marking its lowest level since September 2021. That supports hope for rate cuts in coming months.

Germany's DAX shed 0.1% to 17,979.22 and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.6% to s8,149.06.

The futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average both edged 0.1% lower.

Japan's markets were closed for a holiday. On Tuesday, the Bank of Japan hiked its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 17 years, raising the rate to a range of zero to 0.1% from minus 0.1%.

The U.S. dollar rose against the Japanese yen after the BOJ's comments on its decision suggested that a wide gap between interest rates in the United States and in Japan will persist for the foreseeable future. The dollar rose to 151.46 yen from 150.87 yen, trading at its highest level in four months.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.2% to 16,557.26, and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.6% at 3,079.69.

China left its benchmark lending rates unchanged on Wednesday, as expected. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, the property market remains precarious.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.1% to 7,695.80, while the Kospi in South Korea advanced 1.3% to 2,690.14, Taiwan's Taiex lost 0.4%.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 5,178.51, topping its all-time high set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.8%, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.4%.

International Paper rose 11% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it named Andrew Silvernail, an executive at investment company KKR, as its new CEO.

Shares of Unilever that trade in the United States added 2.8% after it said it was spinning off Ben & Jerry's and its ice cream business, while cutting 7,500 jobs.

Nvidia swung from a loss of nearly 4% to a gain of 1.1%.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Super Micro Computer, whose stock had earlier zoomed from less than $100 to more than $1,000 in a year. The seller of server and storage systems used in AI and other computing, sank 9% after it said it's looking to sell 2 million shares of its stock.

Elsewhere on Wall Street, the focus was on the Federal Reserve.

The Fed began its latest meeting on interest rates on Tuesday and will announce its decision later Wednesday. The widespread expectation is for it to leave its main interest rate alone at a two-decade high, but investors are hoping it will indicate it still expects to cut rates three times later this year, as it hinted a few months ago.

Part of the run for U.S. stocks to records has been because of hopes for such cuts, which would relieve pressure on the economy and financial system. But recent reports on inflation have consistently been coming in worse than expected. That could force the Fed to say it will deliver fewer rate cuts this year, and traders have already given up earlier expectations that the year's first cut would arrive Wednesday.

Strategists at Bank of America expect Fed officials to stick with forecasts showing the median member still expects three cuts in 2024. But it's a close call, and "risks skew to fewer cuts signaled," according to the strategists led by Mark Cabana.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 80 cents to $81.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 82 cents to $86.56 per barrel.

The euro cost $1.0855, down from $1.0865.