Investors are looking to Jerome Powell's speech Friday for hints as to whether last month's first Fed rate cut in a decade likely marked the start of a period of easier credit. Two regional Fed presidents said they see no need for a change.
Most investors expect a cut in September to shore up U.S. economic growth amid a tariff war with Beijing and weakening global growth. "Markets seem very clearly positioned for some very dovish guidance from Mr. Powell," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report. "It is a dangerous assumption to make."
In midday trading, London's FTSE 100 rose 0.7% to 7,180 and Frankfurt's DAX climbed 0.4% to 11,787. France's CAC-40 gained 0.4% to 5,410. Wall Street pointed toward a slightly higher open, with the futures for the Standard & Poor's 500 index gaining 0.3% and the futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average adding 0.2%.
On Thursday, U.S. stocks gave up early gains and wavered through much of the day before closing mostly lower. Minutes from the Fed's July meeting released Wednesday provided little clarity on the future course for rates.
Esther George, president of the Fed's Kansas City regional bank, and Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said in televised interviews they see no need for another rate cut. George and Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, dissented from the 8-2 rate cut vote, arguing that they favored no rate cut at all.
Investors predict a 91.2% likelihood the Fed will cut its benchmark rate by a quarter-point next month, according to the CME Group, which tracks investor bets. That is down from 98.5% the day before. Investors are worried that uncertainty over the U.S.'s escalating trade war with China could cause the economy to stumble, hurting corporate profits.
The Trump administration has imposed a 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese products. 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. Some 60% of the new tariffs were postponed to mid-December and others taken off the table altogether.
In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.4 % to 20,710.91 and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% to 2,897.43. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.5% to 26,179.33. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 was up 0.3% at 6,523.10 and South Korea's Kospi was flat at 1,948.30. India's Sensex gained 0.6% to 36,683.32.
New Zealand and Taiwan were up and Southeast Asian markets were down. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was close to flat at $55.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 33 cents on Thursday to close at $55.35. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 9 cents to $59.83 in London. It shed 38 cents the previous session to $59.92.
CURRENCY: The dollar rose to 106.65 yen from Thursday's 106.42 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1057 from $1.1082.
Matt Ott in Washington contributed to this report.