Wall Street sagged on Tuesday, joining European bourses in the red as markets awaited the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision.
Meanwhile, the pound flashed higher against the dollar and euro after British lawmakers agreed to hold an early election in December that might break the years-long Brexit deadlock.
US stocks declined in a choppy day of trading as markets also digested the latest batch of earnings results, including blue-chip stocks like Pfizer and General Motors, while awaiting the Fed, which is widely expected to announce another interest rate cut at 1800 GMT on Wednesday.
Chris Low of FTN Financial told AFP a “sleepy day” was not unusual on the eve of a Fed announcement, but markets are looking for clues about what policymakers expect to do at the next meeting in December and beyond.
“Does the Fed chair try to rule out further rate cuts or leave the door open?” Low said.
“There has been a lot of hints from other Fed presidents that the message might be they’ve done enough and it’s time to wait and see.”
Meanwhile, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg faced a grilling from lawmakers on Capitol Hill who demanded answers about the company’s conduct prior to two deadly crashes of its 737 MAX.
What Brexit could mean
He apologized for the crashes but defended the company’s actions in developing the MAX aircraft, which has been grounded worldwide for seven months.
Boeing’s shares price rose 2.4 percent.
London, weighed down by the stronger pound, fell as did the Euro Stoxx 50, while Frankfurt was flat and Paris edged higher.
Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said the opposition Labour Party’s decision to support having a vote could come close to allowing the public another vote on Brexit.
But it also “could in fact create more gridlock in Westminster,” she said.
David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB trading group, said “the pound will likely stay fairly well supported unless a no-deal outcome becomes more than marginally possible once more.”
He added: “Elections are often seen as bringing heightened uncertainty and therefore negative in the near-term for affected markets, but in this case there is a hope that it will bring an end to the present quandary we find ourselves in.”
Asian stock markets were mixed, while oil prices split amid reports of another pick-up in US stockpiles that indicated weak demand growth.
In London, shares in oil giant BP shed 3.8 percent to 492.55 pence after it reported poor third quarter results.
Key figures around 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2867 from $1.2863 at 2100 GMT on Monday
Euro/pound: UP at 86.34 pence from 86.29 pence
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1111 from $1.1100
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.89 yen from 108.95 yen
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 27,071.46 (close)
New York – S&P 500 DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,036.89 (close)
New York – Nasdaq DOWN 0.6 percent at 8,276.85 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,306.26 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: FLAT at 12,939.62 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,740.14 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,622.09 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 22,974.13 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 26,786.76 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 2,954.18 (close)
Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.2 percent at $61.59 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.5 percent at $55.54 per barrel