Investors are keenly awaiting the Federal Reserve's post-meeting statement and comments by boss Jerome Powell
Investors are keenly awaiting the Federal Reserve's post-meeting statement and comments by boss Jerome Powell AFP News

Stock markets wavered on Wednesday as shares in major US tech companies fell and investors awaited a key Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

The Dow was up in early deals but the tech-heavy Nasdaq was down more than one percent as shares in Google owner Alphabet and Microsoft fell.

The Fed meets later Wednesday, and while it is widely expected to keep borrowing costs unchanged, the statement and comments by boss Jerome Powell will be pored over for clues about its thinking ahead of the next gathering in March.

"Traders have every excuse to sit on their hands ahead of the US Federal Reserve's rate decision later this evening," said David Morrison, senior market analyst at Trade Nation.

"The probability of a change to the Fed Funds rate is minimal. But there could be a market reaction if either the accompanying statement, or Powell's subsequent press conference provide any clues to the timing of future rate cuts," he said.

Investors are hoping the Fed will begin cutting rates soon after hiking them to their highest level in more than two decades to combat inflation.

The Fed meeting will be followed Friday by the closely watched non-farm payrolls report, which provides the clearest guide to the strength of the labour market.

Google-owner Alphabet and Microsoft both reported healthy revenue late Tuesday but their shares fell Wednesday as some investors took profits after some disappointing guidance from both companies.

"These were another set of decent numbers, more than beating expectations on the headline level, however given the gains seen since October the margin for error becomes miniscule in terms of an excuse for some profit taking," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Facebook owner Meta, Apple and Amazon are due to report Friday.

London was up but Paris was flat and Frankfurt fell in afternoon deals.

Recent inflation and growth data in Europe pointed towards slowing price increases, which raises the chances that the European Central Bank could start unwinding its own rate increases.

But investors are largely cautious after recent warnings from ECB officials that they are in no rush to cut.

"National data published so far suggest that headline and core inflation in the eurozone came down a little more than we had expected in January," said Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics.

"This makes us more confident in our view that the ECB will begin cutting rates in April," he added.

In Asia, the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets fell as the crisis surrounding China's fallen property titan Evergrande is casting a shadow, stoking economic worries about the key energy consuming nation.

That sent oil prices lower on Wednesday, though they recovered some of their early losses.

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 38,495.72 points

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.7 percent at 4,893.02

New York - Nasdaq Composite: DOWN 1.2 percent at 15,327.07

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,671.87

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 7,675.17

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.2 percent at 16,932.59

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,657.57

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 36,286.71 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.4 percent at 15,485.07 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.5 percent at 2,788.55 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0876 from $1.0845 on Tuesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 146.60 yen from 147.61 yen

Euro/pound: DOWN at 0.8537 from 0.8540 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.3 percent at $76.79 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 1.0 percent at $82.05 per barrel