A poll by Reuters released on Wednesday showed the majority of economists now expect no hike later on Thursday, although it remains a close call. The futures market implied traders assigned a 1-in-4 chance of such a move.
“Investors are in wait-and-see mode,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
Mixed U.S. data on jobless claims, housing starts and regional manufacturing did little to change traders’ view on the timing of the Fed’s “lift-off.”
U.S. two-year Treasuries yield US2YT=RR held below a near 4-1/2 year high. Oil prices were marginally lower, while gold gave back a bit of Wednesday’s gains.
Traders had expected the Fed to raise rates for most of this year, but those expectations faded following a bout of global market turmoil this summer on worries about China.
As the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s policy-setting group, releases its policy statement at 2 p.m, it will put forth its quarterly Summary of Economic Projections (SEP), also referred to as “dot plots,” that present individual forecasts of policymakers.
At 2:30 p.m, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will hold a news conference where she will likely face a barrage of questions on the central bank’s policy stance and economic outlook.
The dot plots and Yellen’s responses will likely stir wild swings across markets, analysts said.
In early U.S. trading, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 10.79 points, or 0.06 percent, to 16,729.16, the S&P 500 .SPX declined 0.2 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,995.11 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC shed 8.01 points, or 0.16 percent, to 4,897.24.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 was little changed at 1,428.27.
Tokyo’s Nikkei index .N225 ended up 1.4 percent.
The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 45 nations, rose 0.2 percent to 399.64.
The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, fell 0.28 percent, to 95.151.
Brent crude LCOc1 was last down 26 cents, or down 0.52 percent, at $49.49 a barrel. U.S. crude CLc1 was last down 23 cents, or 0.49 percent, at $46.93 per barrel.
Spot gold prices XAU= fell 0.12 percent to $1,117.81 an ounce.