Global stocks capped by trade war concerns, central banks

© Reuters. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

By Nick Brown

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks across the globe wavered on Wednesday on fears of trade tensions and questions about U.S. interest rates, while lower-than-expected inventory data sent oil prices into the black after morning losses.

Investors are awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve’s 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) decision on monetary policy, with the year’s second interest rate hike almost certain.

But market participants are keen to know how many times the Fed will raise rates in 2018, with market pricing “fairly split between three and four hikes,” Deutsche Bank (DE:) strategist Jim Reid wrote in a note to clients.

Amid the uncertainty, Wall Street opened slightly firmer, buoyed by a jump in media stocks after Tuesday’s court ruling allowing AT&T’s $85 billion take over of Time Warner – a move expected to trigger a wave of corporate mergers.

Shares of the HBO channel owner (N:) jumped about 3 percent after the approval, while AT&T (N:) dropped 1.6 percent.

Overall, stock markets were moving up, but tepidly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average () rose 18.88 points, or 0.07 percent, to 25,339.61, the S&P 500 () gained 4 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,790.85 and the Nasdaq Composite () added 42.30 points, or 0.55 percent, to 7,746.09.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index () rose 0.19 percent, and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe (), which has been stagnating near one-month highs for about a week, gained 0.09 percent.

Equity markets are “finding it difficult to make upward progress despite reasonably good economic data”, said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Along with the Fed and other key central bank policy meetings this week, fresh fears of protectionism are weighing on

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