File picture: Alex Grimm

New York - The world's major stock and bond markets were little changed on Wednesday as investors awaited comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at the conclusion of the Fed's two-day policy meeting.

The US central bank is expected to trim its bond-buying stimulus by $10 billion a month for a third time in a row on Wednesday, as well as update its guidance on when interest rates will eventually rise.

The Fed statement is due at 2 p.m. (18:00 SA time) followed by a press conference by Yellen at 2:30 p.m.

A policy decision to steadily scale back stimulus, while likely noting the economy's recent weakness is not solely down to harsh winter weather, should soothe any concerns investors might have had surrounding Yellen's first policy-setting meeting as the Fed chief.

The shift in focus to the Fed and away from geopolitical concerns over Russia and Ukraine put a floor under stocks, which had opened lower following a strong start to the week.

“The Fed is taking control of everyone's attention today,” said Mike Cullinane, head of Treasuries trading at D.A. Davidson in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It's pretty assured they will continue to taper, probably by another $10 billion.”

US government debt prices were little changed.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were unchanged in price, with a yield of 2.681 percent, just above the 200-day moving average of 2.679 percent, according to Reuters data.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was within striking distance of all-time highs, though a selloff in shares of Oracle Corp weighed on the tech sector.

FedEx Corp, considered an economic bellwether because of the massive volume of goods it ships around the world, also sounded a sour note in its outlook.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.23 points, or 0.09 percent, to 16,350.42.

The S&P 500 gained 0.6 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,872.85, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.57 points, or 0.15 percent, to 4,326.743.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.25 percent at 1,309.4 points, marking a third straight day of gains.

Germany's DAX was up 0.7 percent at 9,308 points, boosted by a 7 percent surge in shares of BMW, making the stock Europe's biggest gainer.

The automaker said it expects profits to rise this year.



The dollar got a lift from expectations the Federal Reserve will look beyond the drag of a harsh winter on America's economy and keep unwinding its monetary stimulus, though the dollar's gains against the euro and yen were held back by some trepidation before Yellen's inaugural policy review as Fed chief, traders said.

The dollar edged up 0.13 percent against the yen, to 101.55 yen, staying above a one-month low of 101.20 yen hit on March 3.

The euro fetched $1.3916, down 0.14 percent on the day but not far from last Thursday's 2-1/2-year high of $1.3967.

The dollar index was up at 79.49, a gain of 0.09 percent.

“The key thing will be whether there will be any change in the timing of rate hikes by the Fed from next year,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of currency strategy at CIBC World Markets.

“I am not convinced the Fed is ready to materially change guidance and we will see a very even-handed Yellen. All of which leaves investors looking to second-quarter US data before taking fresh positions in the dollar.”

Oil fell to around $106 a barrel on Wednesday, reaching a six-week low, as concerns eased about an escalation of the Ukraine crisis and on a larger-than-expected rise in US crude inventories.

Brent was down 75 cents at $106.04 a barrel after reaching an intra-day low of $105.81, the lowest since February 5.

US crude rose 45 cents to $100.15. - Reuters