Global stocks mostly end down ahead of Fed; oil falls

Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:35pm EDT
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By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks mostly ended lower on Tuesday as investors turned their focus to the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, which is being closely watched for signs of when the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates.

Wall Street stocks were broadly lower, pulling back after Monday's rally, but the S&P and the Dow pared losses in afternoon trading and the Nasdaq posted gains as Apple Inc rose 1.7 percent.

Other asset classes were also volatile. U.S. crude oil traded up as much as 0.7 percent but finished lower, its eighth decline in the past nine sessions, while Brent crude closed up for the first time in four days.

The U.S. dollar index turned flat, after earlier weakness. The euro, which recently hit a 12-year low, rose against the dollar for a second straight session as soft U.S. data cooled the dollar's recent rally.

Investors are awaiting the Fed's policy statement on Wednesday afternoon after the close of its meeting.

"People are waiting for the Fed to provide some degree of clarity going forward," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Many analysts expect the Fed to remove the word "patient" from its statement to describe its approach to raising rates later in the year. Doing so would put the Fed a step closer to its first rate hike since 2006.

Economists polled by Reuters are almost evenly split on whether a rate increase will come in June or later in the year. Recent U.S. data, including Tuesday's on February housing starts, has fueled talk that the Fed will remain on hold.   Continued...

A photo illustration shows U.S. Dollar and euro banknotes in Vienna March 16, 2015.    REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader