Global shares retreat as investors await Fed chair’s speech

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Global shares were mostly lower Wednesday as investors looked ahead to a much-anticipated speech by the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

France’s CAC 40 inched down less than 0.1% in early trading to 5,006.48, while Germany’s DAX added 0.2% to 13,084.49. Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.2% to 6,027.32. U.S. shares were set to be mixed with Dow futures at 28,168.0, down 0.1%. S&P 500 futures were up nearly 0.1% at 3,445.88.

The market has meandered recently on snippets of news about the coronavirus, developments on a potential vaccine, and other concerns.

Data releases are giving markets a mixed bag of signals, such as relatively positive U.S. home sales but a disappointing read on consumer confidence, as fears of more waves of COVID-19 infections persist, said Hayaki Narita, of the Asia & Oceania Treasury Department at Mizuho Bank.

Depending on your point of view, data and developments may be encouraging or gloomy, he said.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished at 23,290.86, down less than 0.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7% to 6,116.40. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.1% to 2,369.32. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was little changed edging up less than 0.1% to 25,491.79, while the Shanghai Composite shed 1.3% to 3,329.74.

Market players are watching for Fed chair Jerome Powell’s speech on Thursday. He is expected to discuss the next steps for monetary policy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The central bank has slashed short-term rates to nearly zero and is buying all kinds of bonds, which helps drive some investors into the stock market, pushing up share prices.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 5 cents to 43.30 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 73 cents to 43.35 per barrel Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 6 cents to 45.92 a barrel.

The dollar slipped to 106.23 Japanese yen from 106.38 yen on Tuesday. The euro fell to 1.1812 from 1.1837.

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