World stocks mixed as investors await Fed's likely rate hike

U.S. stock indexes stuck close to their record levels in early trading Monday ahead of a busy week full of events that could swing markets. (AP

Asian stock markets closed lower on Wednesday, ahead of a rates decision from the U.S. Federal Reserve and as Dutch voters head to the polls.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 6.94 points, or 0.03 percent, to 20,927.61, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.64 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,379.74 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 6.50 points, or 0.11 percent, to 5,894.26. India's Sensex climbed 0.5 percent to 29,531.05 and benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore also rose.

In a move spurred by steady economic growth, strong job gains and confidence that inflation is rising to the central bank's target, the Fed raised rates by 25 basis points, its second in three months, with Chair Janet Yellen emphasising that future rate increases would be "gradual".

The Nikkei rose 0.2 per cent to 19,633.75, its highest close since December 2015.

BUSY WEEK: The Bank of England, Bank of Japan and others around the world are also holding meetings this week.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose as much as 1.7% to its highest level in 20 months, while United States stocks rose sharply overnight.

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The ECB will decide later whether to raise interest rates before or after ending its bond purchase program, policymaker Ewald Nowotny told a newspaper.

In Southeast Asia, banks, which usually tend to benefit from rate hike cycles that allow them to charge more money for loans, were among the top gainers. The British government, meanwhile, has been cleared by parliament to formally begin the process of exiting the EU. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent to 2,164.58.

Fast Retailing, the operator of Uniqlo clothing chain, fell 1.9 percent after the Nikkei Business Daily reported that its rivals were planning to expand aggressively to new markets. The Netherlands has its own election this week, where politicians have also railed against the European Union and immigrants.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 11 cents to $48.86 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 114.81 yen from 114.88 yen while the euro held steady at $1.065. Brent crude, which is used to price worldwide oils, dropped 69 cents to $50.66 a barrel.

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