MANILA, Philippines Global stock markets were muted Tuesday as investors waited for a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting this week for clues about when the central bank will begin reducing its monetary stimulus.
Gains in the world's stock markets have been underwritten for several years by the Fed's mammoth expansion of the U.S. money supply. But as the world's biggest economy slowly recovers from the 2009 recession, the Fed is expected to start scaling down its purchases of government bonds and mortgage securities that total $85 billion a month.
Markets had previously expected the withdrawal of stimulus to begin this year but expectations have shifted to next year as the pace of improvement in the U.S. economy waned. The wording of the Fed's statement this week will be scrutinized for any new indications about when that process will begin. Any hints of change could roil markets.
In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.5 percent higher at 6,756.24. Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent at 8,996.28 and France's CAC-40 added 0.1 percent to 4,257.61.
Futures in New York pointed to a flat open on Wall Street, with Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures little changed.
Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.5 percent down at 14,325.98 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng see-sawed between gains and losses, finishing up 0.2 percent at 22,846.54.
Benchmarks in New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia closed slightly lower, while indexes in South Korea and Taiwan both rose 0.2 percent.
China's Shanghai Composite finished 0.2 percent lower at 2,128.86.
Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong said news that China's housing ministry is likely to bring more real estate into the market by 2014 prompted concerns about the valuations of property companies, offsetting relief that China's central bank had resumed injecting funds into money markets. Earlier there were fears a credit crunch could slow China's economic recovery.
Sullivan said investors are generally trading cautiously to lock in gains before the year ends.
"People are much more concerned about locking in the gains at highest rather than necessarily risking losing them in the last month," he said.
In energy markets, benchmark crude for December delivery was down 36 cents at $98.32 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 83 cents to $98.68 on Monday.
The euro fell to $1.3766 from $1.3786 late Monday. The dollar fell to 97.56 yen from 97.66 yen.