Stocks advance as focus turns towards Fed decision

LONDON — Shares in Europe advanced Wednesday as investors looked ahead to the latest policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve and to China-U.S. trade talks later in the week.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX added 1.3 percent to 12,766 while the CAC 40 of France rose 0.1 percent to 5,528. The FTSE 100 climbed 0.4 percent to 7,549. U.S. stocks were poised for a steady opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

FED FOCUS: Much of the market's attention will be on the upcoming rate decision from the Fed. Though the central bank is expected to keep borrowing rates unchanged, traders will be particularly interested in the accompanying statement and whether it signals a change in tone on the interest rate front, specifically whether its lining up a fourth increase this year. Most analysts think the Fed will echo its most recent statement and that it will wait for upcoming data, such as this Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for April.

ANALYST TAKE: "Still, with the central bank having previously projected three this year with an additional next, even a slight hawkish shift in the statement could convince traders that a fourth is more likely," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

TRADE: Uncertainty over trade tensions between Washington and Beijing is mounting as top U.S. officials prepare to head to Beijing for talks aimed at defusing worsening tensions over the trade imbalance. The Trump administration decision Monday to delay a decision on imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports sidestepped a potential trade battle with Europe for now, though but European Union leaders want a permanent exemption and say the delay in resolving the issue is bad for business.

EUROPE SLOWDOWN: After posting its highest growth in a decade during 2017, the 19-country eurozone has come off the boil at the start of the new year, largely because of temporary factors such as the "Beast from the East" cold weather phenomenon that gripped much of Europe in late winter. In its first estimate, Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, said Wednesday that growth across the single currency bloc slowed in the first three months of the year to a quarterly rate of 0.4 percent from a hefty 0.7 percent tick the previous quarter. Despite the slowdown, growth was higher than the equivalent in the U.S.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.2 percent to 22,472.78 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.3 percent to 30,723.88. The Shanghai Composite index was nearly flat at 3,081.18 and South Korea's Kospi gave up 0.4 percent to 2,505.61.

ENERGY: Oil prices were mixed. Benchmark U.S. crude was up 18 cents at $67.43 a barrel, while Brent crude, the international standard, fell 18 cents to $72.95 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.2005 while the dollar fell 0.1 percent to 109.80 yen.

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