Skip to main content

The market doesn't seem to have any strong feelings about what to do with itself while the

Federal Open Market Committee

decides the future of short-term interest rates.

The market: Join the discussion on


Message Boards. At 9:05 a.m. EST, the

S&P 500

futures were unchanged, fractionally below fair value and indicating a mixed open.

"We're looking at a flattish market," said Bob Basel, director of listed trading at

Salomon Smith Barney

. "Maybe they'll sell a few things because it's been a strong two days. But the whole day really hinges on the last two hours."

That's because the FOMC, which has convened in Washington for the second half of its two-day meeting, will post any changes in interest rates at around 2:15 p.m. Though a chance remains that the Fed will raise rates by 50 basis points, the wide consensus on Wall Street is that today's meeting will yield a hike of just 25 basis points.

Still, there's little confidence that such action will be enough to slow an economy that grew a screaming 5.8% last year, especially in light of recent spikes in such inflation measures as the implicit price deflator and the

Employment Cost Index

. A


poll shows 22 of the 30 primary dealers of U.S. government securities expecting another quarter-percentage-point tightening at the Fed's next meeting in March.

"I think the world has concluded that 25 is not the end," said Charles Crane, chief market strategist at

Key Asset Management

. "And if we get such language ... confirming that, you go back to the uncertainty of when the next 25 hits you, which is not good."

"On other hand," Crane added, "we may be set up for sell-on-rumor, buy-on-the-news situation."

But the market has been doing a lot of buying in the past two days. In fact, the volatile

Nasdaq Composite Index

is once again on the verge of experiencing another market cycle in just a matter of days. In the past two days of furious trading, the Comp has managed to erase nearly half of the 8.6% decline it suffered last week.

Tech was lately showing some inclination to pull back a bit, with the

Nasdaq 100

futures down 5.5 to 3718.

The bond market was little changed ahead of the FOMC decision, with the 10-year note unchanged at 95 20/32, putting its yield at 6.626%. The 30-year Treasury was up 1/32 to 96 1/32 and yielding 6.426%.

Today's earnings

schedule will culminate when


releases its fourth-quarter results after the close.

previewed the report in a

story last night.

Though off their highs, the large European bourses were looking strong in afternoon trading, led by the Paris


, which was up 125.31, or 2.2%, to 5898.73. Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

was 57.16 higher, or 0.8%, to 7107.62, while London's


was up 22.2 to 6313.1.

The euro was lately trading at $0.9721.

The prospect of rising interest rates around the globe failed to put a dent in Asian markets overnight.



rose 155.53, or 0.8%, to 19,578.91. Sentiment was boosted by the launch of

Nomura Asset Management's

"Big Project-N" investment trust, which reportedly has accumulated around 792 billion yen. The trust has a 1-trillion-yen ceiling and will invest in blue-chips, technology and OTC shares.

The dollar continued to build on its recent advances against the yen in Tokyo trading, with dollar/yen climbing to around 108.68 after U.S. investors' dollar-buying spree triggered massive stop-loss orders above the 108 level. The greenback was lately sitting at 108.37 yen.

In Hong Kong, where interest rates effectively track those in the U.S., the

Hang Seng

rose 135.92, or 0.9%, to 15,789.82.


All Ordinaries

index climbed 31.8, or 1.0%, to 3116.3 after that country's central bank surprised traders by raising the benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 5.5%. The market had expected a 25-basis-point rise.


Straits Times

index gained 41.01, or 1.8%, to 2271.40, while Korea's


picked up 14.84, or 1.6%, to 943.59.

For a look at stocks in the preopen news, see Stocks to Watch, published separately.