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European stocks advance before Fed meeting

AFP

Traders at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange where the DAX 30 index advanced 0.21 percent to 9,941.19 pointsTraders at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange where the DAX 30 index  advanced 0.21 percent to 9,941.19 points

Traders at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange where the DAX 30 index advanced 0.21 percent to 9,941.19 pointsTraders at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange where the DAX 30 index advanced 0.21 percent to 9,941.19 points

European stock markets climbed Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of the US Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting, and tracked fighting in Iraq.

In late morning trading, London's FTSE 100 index of top companies rose 0.39 percent to 6,793.09 points.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 advanced 0.21 percent to 9,941.19 points and in Paris the CAC 40 index gained 0.07 percent to 4,539.45 compared with Tuesday's close.

The European single currency rose to $1.3560, from $1.3546 late in New York.

The Fed will wrap up a two-day policy meeting later in the day. While policymakers are widely expected to continue winding down their stimulus, investors will be watching to see if Fed chief Janet Yellen gives any hints about future policy.

"Equity markets in Europe traded higher for a second consecutive session as market participants continue to hunt for value; continued violence in Iraq is still affecting the markets, though traders are focussed on the Federal Reserve?s policy meeting decision later," said ETX Capital analyst Daniel Sugarman.

"The Fed is set to reduce the bond buying programme by $10 billion, to $35 billion, and retain interest rates at current levels."

At the same time, traders remain nervous about fast-moving events in key crude producer Iraq.

Militants attacked the nation's biggest oil refinery Wednesday, as the prime minister scrambled to regain the initiative by sacking security commanders and reaching out to political rivals.

Clashes erupted at around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) at the Baiji refinery in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad.

The United States, which is mulling air strikes against the insurgents, said it believed Baghdad's security forces were rallying against the assault, while Iran pledged not to let Shiite shrines in Iraq fall to the Sunni Arab militants leading the charge.

The Iranian vow follow a call by top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to volunteer to resist the onslaught spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who hold the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit and are fighting north of the capital.

- Oil prices rise -

World oil prices edged higher, with Brent rising towards $107 per barrel, but held below last week's nine-month peak of almost $115.

"Today's militant attack on Iraq's main refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad risks cutting off supply of gasoline and diesel to northern Iraq and also provides a source of fuel for ISIL and its supporters," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

"The impact to global supply from the attack in Baiji is limited, however, if the ISIL forces continue to make progress towards Baghdad and onto Iraq?s main oilfields in the south, the current oil price stabilisation is likely to be short lived and we could see a significant spike in oil prices."

In foreign exchange activity, the British pound dipped against the dollar and euro as minutes showed that the Bank of England was unanimous in its decision to maintain record-low interest rates earlier this month.

The central bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 9-0 to keep its key rate at 0.50 percent, where it has stood since March 2009 to stimulate growth.

BoE governor Mark Carney had hinted last week that the bank could lift rates sooner than expected, prompting analysts to price in an increase by the end of the year.

The pound dipped to $1.6944, down from $1.6961 on Tuesday. The euro meanwhile advanced to 80.02 British pence from 79.85 pence.

Date created : 2014-06-18