World markets mostly lower as investors await Fed report

Chinese investors use computer terminals to monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Markets in Asia are mostly lower after a lackluster day of trading on Wall Street.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Chinese investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Markets in Asia are mostly lower after a lackluster day of trading on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A Chinese investor uses his smartphone as he monitors stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Markets in Asia are mostly lower after a lackluster day of trading on Wall Street.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Chinese investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Markets in Asia are mostly lower after a lackluster day of trading on Wall Street.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BANGKOK — Shares were mostly falling in Europe after a lackluster day of trading in Asia and U.S. markets appeared set for a slightly higher open ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy statement.

Germany's DAX sank 1.2 percent to 11,644, dragged down by a profit warning by BMW and a court ruling against Bayer's Roundup weed killer. The CAC 40 in France gave up 0.1 percent to 5,419. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 7,325.

Wall Street was on track for small gains when the market opens, with the future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.1 percent to 25,933. That for the Standard and Poor's 500 rose less than 0.1 percent, to 2,838.

In Asia, fresh news on China-U.S. trade talks helped Chinese benchmarks to trim early losses. The Shanghai Composite was flat at 3,090.64 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 29,320.97.

White House officials said Tuesday that top U.S. trade and economic officials will visit China late next week for another round of negotiations on their dispute over Beijing's industrial policies and other issues.

The officials, who spoke on background because they weren't authorized to comment publicly, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the delegation.

The news suggested hope for progress, albeit delayed, in the tariffs war between the two largest economies. Business lobbyists say an agreement now probably won't be reached until late April.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent to 21,608.92, while the S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.3 percent to 6,165.30. South Korea's Kospi was virtually unchanged at 2,177.10. India's Sensex advanced 0.2 percent to 38,422.94.

Shares were higher in Taiwan and Thailand but fell in Singapore and Indonesia.

Global investors are looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's interest rate policy update due later Wednesday. The central bank has signaled that it will be "patient" in raising interest rates.

"Against the backdrop of heightened concerns over U.S.-China trade and ahead of the Fed meeting, Asia markets may well trade cautiously once again," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. She added that "the broad sense is that regional markets will be attuned toward the Fed meeting."

The Fed has made clear that with a dimmer economic picture in both the United States and globally, it no longer sees the need to keep raising rates as it did four times in 2018. Among the key factors, besides slower growth, are President Donald Trump's trade war with China, continually low inflation levels and Prime Minister Theresa May's struggle to execute Britain's exit from the European Union.

May was set to ask the European Union this week for a delay to the country's divorce from the bloc, due to take place in nine days. But a frustrated EU warned it could keep Britain waiting for an answer. Parliament last week voted for a three-month delay to the end of June, but some EU leaders have suggested another two years might be necessary.

GERMANY SLUMPS: The DAX faltered on a double dose of bad news from German companies. Automaker BMW projected lower profits for the year, while shares in Bayer plunged after a U.S. jury found the company's Roundup weed killer contributed to a California man's cancer. It's the second such verdict against the German conglomerate.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.51 Japanese yen from 111.40 yen. The euro rose to $1.1360 from $1.1351 on Tuesday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 52 cents to $58.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 20 cents to $67.41 a barrel.

___

Ott reported from Madrid.

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