Global stocks lower ahead of U.S. Fed chair’s speech

Major global stock markets are mostly lower as investors look ahead to a speech by the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman

BEIJING — Global stock markets and U.S. futures declined Thursday as investors looked ahead to a speech by the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman.

London and Frankfurt opened lower while Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul declined. Shanghai advanced.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell’s speech is part of the U.S. central bank’s annual Jackson Hole symposium. Officials in the past have used the meeting, being held online this year, to make market-moving announcements.

This year, forecasters expect Powell to talk about inflation and the importance of Congress delivering more economic aid after its last round of stimulus expired. Partisan disagreements have prevented an agreement.

While the Fed keeps interest rates near zero, Powell has said Congress needs to take action.

Investors, “they may be a little disappointed,” Craig Erlam of Oanda said in a report.

“Barring fine tweaks, I don’t think central banks are going to have much to offer for the foreseeable future,” Erlam wrote.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London fell 0.4% to 6,022.16 and Frankfurt’s DAX declined 0.2% to 13,160.96. The CAC 40 in France shed 0.5% to 5,022.67.

On Wall Street, the futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 0.2%.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index hit another high, closing up 1% on strong gains for tech stocks. Most other companies in the index declined.

The Dow rose 0.3% and the Nasdaq composite climbed 1.7%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6% to 3,350.11. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.3% to 23,208.86 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.8% to 25,281.15.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 1% to 2,344.45 while Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.2% to 6,126.20. India’s Sensex gained 0.2% to 39,153.36. New Zealand, Bangkok and Jakarta gained while Singapore retreated.

Markets have recovered most of this year’s losses, driven by gains for big technology companies investors expect to do well despite the coronavirus pandemic. Forecasters warn, however, the rebound might be too big and too early to be sustained.

The latest data show U.S. economic activity has slowed following its initial rebound from the pandemic.

The Fed has been a primary reason for the stock market’s return to a record.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 15 cents to $43.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 4 cents on Wednesday to $43.39. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, shed 5 cents to $46.11 per barrel in London. It fell 22 cents the pervious session to $45.64.

The dollar rose to 106.03 Japanese yen from Wednesday’s 106.00 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1839 from $1.1831.