Dec 17, 2014 9:28 AM

Stocks drift after ruble rout and ahead of Fed

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) Stock markets around the world were under pressure Wednesday amid the volatility of the Russian ruble and ahead of a key policy meeting at the U.S. Federal Reserve.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX was 0.6 percent lower at 9,506 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.4 percent to 4,076. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.7 percent lower at 6,287. Wall Street was poised for a lower opening too, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.7 percent.

RUSSIA FOCUS: Russia remained the focus of market concerns amid the recent slide in the value of the ruble, which has lost more than 50 percent of its value this year. After posting fresh losses early Wednesday, the ruble recovered and was 3.0 percent higher at 65 rubles to the dollar at 1300 GMT. One of the reasons why trading has been less frenetic is an indication from the Russian authorities that they are set to sell foreign currency to relieve the pressure on the ruble. The Russian currency has suffered in the wake of sliding oil prices and sanctions imposed over Russia's involvement in Ukraine's crisis.

FED MEETING: As if the turmoil in Russian markets wasn't enough, investors have to digest the Federal Reserve's final policy decision of the year later Wednesday. Investors will be interested to see if, despite the turmoil in Russia, U.S. policymakers drop a promise to keep interest rates low for a "considerable time." Analysts expect no immediate change in monetary policy, which the Fed has said would return to normal sometime next year following its history-making stimulus in the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis.

THE QUOTE: "I expect plenty of volatility around this event whatever they do," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari. "I'm sure if this is removed, (Fed) Chair Janet Yellen will do her very best to assure the markets that it won't come until the middle of next year. The only question is whether the markets will buy it."

ASIA'S DAY: China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.3 percent to 3,061.02 points and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent to 16,819.73. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.4 percent at 22,585.84 and Seoul's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 1,900.16. Taiwan, Singapore and Manila also were down while Sydney, Bangkok and New Zealand rose.

OIL SLUMP: Crude prices fell further from already-low levels. U.S. crude was down 49 cents to $55.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 76 cents to $59.23 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: Foreign trading, aside from that involving the ruble, was fairly flat. The euro was 0.1 percent lower at $1.2487 while the dollar fell 0.1 percent to 117.01 yen.


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