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While you were sleeping: Markets hover before Fed

Tuesday 14th March 2017

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US Treasuries declined while Wall Street was mixed as investors geared up for a two-day meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers to gauge the pace of interest rate increases this year.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen recently signalled that the Federal Open Market Committee will raise the central bank's key interest rate during the two-day meeting ending March 15.

“Although the Fed rate hike is priced in at 100 percent, the Fed watchers will be focused on the dot plot to catch any hints regarding the future of the Fed policy,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a market analyst at London Capital Group, wrote in a note, Bloomberg reported.

“The Fed could steepen the rate normalisation in 2017 and hike rates more than three times as anticipated until the beginning of March,” Ozkardeskaya noted.

US Treasuries slid, pushing the yield on 10-year notes one basis point higher to 2.58 percent.

Wall Street was mixed. In 1.12pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.2 percent. In 12.57pm trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.1 percent.

In the Dow, declines in shares of Intel and those of Merck, down 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, outweighed advances in shares of Caterpillar and those of the Home Depot, up 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.

Merck slid with other health care stocks as investors awaited the release of a Congressional Budget Office report on the cost estimates of the House Republicans' proposed health care bill.

"There is a lot of uncertainty in the health care sector," Brant Houston, managing director at CIBC Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management in Colorado, told Reuters.

"Until this whole debate plays out, investors are going to be a little bit concerned about how these stocks will perform,” according to Houston.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the day with 0.4 percent increase from the previous close.

France’s CAC 40 Index gained 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX Index rose 0.2 percent, while the UK’s FTSE 100 Index advanced 0.3 percent.

In the Netherlands, the benchmark AEX Index rose 0.2 percent to close at the highest level in more than nine years ahead of elections on Wednesday. While most opinion polls show Geert Wilders' anti-Islam, anti-European Union Freedom Party has lost the lead in recent weeks, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned Wilders might still win the most seats in parliament.

“I do believe there is a real risk we can wake up” on Thursday to find Wilders is the leader of the biggest party, Rutte told an audience of international journalists, Bloomberg reported.

Shares of Ros Agro closed 1.6 weaker in London after the Russian publicly-traded farm company warned that its margins will “continue to be challenged” this year because of the strong rouble and abundant agricultural crops in Russia.

Net profit slid 42 percent in the year ended December 31, 2016, the company said in a statement, as the rouble appreciated and its sale prices of grain and sugar slid.

"Following the current foreign exchange rates and trends on the world food markets, the company expects margin to continue to be challenged during 2017 due to the strong rouble, surplus of agricultural crops and sugar in Russia and weak consumer demand,” CEO Maxim Basov said in a statement.

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