Investor reaction was muted following Wednesday's release of notes from the latest Fed meeting showing conflicting opinions about rates. Benchmarks in London and Paris declined in early trading. Hong Kong closed down while Shanghai and Tokyo advanced.
Investors are looking to Chairman Jerome Powell's speech on Friday for guidance about whether the Fed might cut rates at its next meeting in September. The Fed cut its key policy rate on July 31 for the first time in more than a decade, citing President Donald Trump's tariff battle with Beijing and other possible threats to economic growth.
Markets have a "high degree of policy uncertainty" ahead of Powell's speech and U.S.-China trade talks in September, said Stephen Innes, analyst at trading platform Oanda. Mixed views on rates among Fed leaders are "well documented," but the notes are a "reminder of how challenging it could be for Chair Powell to meet the market's exceedingly dovish expectations," said Innes.
London's FTSE 100 was down 0.5% to 7,169 and Frankfurt's DAX edged up 0.1% to 11,811. France's CAC-40 dropped 0.3% to 5,421. On Wall Street, futures for both the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Average were flat.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1% to 2,883.44 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9% to 26,046.47. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was 0.1% higher at 20,612.17. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.3% to 6,501.08 and India's Sensex shed 0.5% to 36868.14. Seoul's Kospi declined 0.7% to 1,951.01.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.8% while the Dow and the Nasdaq composite added 0.9%. Traders see strong quarterly results from retailers as a sign of health among consumers who account for 70% of U.S. economic growth. But uncertainty remains high around the world, particularly as the U.S.-China trade war is slowing the global economy and questions remain about how soon that could start to affect other sectors like services or consumer spending.
The Trump administration has imposed a 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese imports. A pending 10% tariff on another $300 billion in goods would hit everything from toys to clothing and shoes that China ships to the United States. But 60% of the new tariffs wouldn't go into effect until mid-December, and others were taken off the table altogether.
ENERGY: The benchmark U.S. crude contract gained 53 cents to $56.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 45 cents on Wednesday to close at $55.68. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 53 cents to $60.83 in London. It gained 27 cents the previous session to $60.30.
CURRENCY: The dollar dropped to 106.56 yen from Wednesday's 106.62 yen. The euro declined to $1.1079 from $1.1086.