Investor reaction was muted following Wednesday's release of notes from the latest Fed meeting showing conflicting opinions about rates. Benchmarks in London and Frankfurt declined in early trading. Hong Kong closed down while Shanghai and Tokyo advanced.
Investors are looking to Chairman Jerome Powell's speech 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 of Oanda in a report. Mixed views 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.
In early trading, London FTSE 100 lost 0.4% to 7173.92 and Frankfurt's DAX shed 3 points to 11799.69. France's CAC-40 dropped 0.2% to 5424.47. On Wall Street, futures for the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Average both lost 0.1%.
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. New Zealand and Taiwan were up while Southeast Asian markets declined. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.8%. 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.
Target notched its biggest-ever gain, while Lowe's had its best day in more than a year, leading a broad rally in companies that rely on consumer spending. Nordstrom, Kohl's, Gap and other retailers closed higher.
Technology companies accounted for a big share of the gains. Financial stocks rose as bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. Real estate and materials stocks lagged the rest of the market. 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: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 23 cents to $55.91 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 18 cents to $60.48 in London. It gained 27 cents the previous session to $60.30.
CURRENCY: The dollar dropped to 106.44 yen from Wednesday's 106.62 yen. The euro declined to $1.1108 from $1.1086.