Asia stocks rise, Europe flat as investors count down to Fed

HONG KONG: Asian stocks surged while European markets were tentative Wednesday as investors waited to see whether the Fed raises interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

KEEPING SCORE: European stocks were mixed in early trading. France's CAC 40 dipped 0.2 percent to 4,604.86 and Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 10,464.89. Britain's FTSE 100 climbed 0.2 percent to 6,029.76. US stocks were poised to open higher. Dow futures were up 0.2 percent to 17,494.00. Broader S&P 500 futures increased 0.2 percent to 2,040.60.

THE FED, FINALLY: Investors around the world will be watching the Fed, which is expected to announce that it will raise interest rates from record low levels. Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other officials at the US central bank have signaled well in advance that they are likely to raise rates for the first time in nearly a decade. They've also strongly hinted that they'll keep the pace of any further increases gradual, as they try to avoid roiling financial markets that have become accustomed to easy credit. The decision highlights the world economy's two-speed nature. As the US economy comes back to full strength, other big central banks are opting to keep the stimulus taps open to revive flagging growth in their economies.

MARKET INSIGHT: The Fed's expected decision "is negative news definitely but it's already priced in for a long, long time," said Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Financial Group. By following through on its hints, the Fed will clear up uncertainty in the markets, which is "definitely a good thing," he said. "It's just as much as people are expecting. But this good news cannot sustain the market for so long." Wong said expects US and Asian stock markets "will just go up and pull back" in the wake of a Fed rate hike.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Most of the region's benchmarks finished with strong gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 2.6 percent to close at 19,049.91 and South Korea's Kospi climbed 1.8 percent to 1,969.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rebounded from a nine-day losing streak to advance 2 percent to 21,701.21. Gains were more muted on the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China, which rose 0.2 percent to 3,516.19. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 2.4 percent to 5,028.40. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia also gained.

ENERGY: Benchmark US crude futures slipped 58 cents to $36.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.04, or 2.9 percent, to settle at $37.35 a barrel on Thursday but overall oil is down about 30 percent in 2015 and is at its lowest in more than six years. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 85 cents to $37.89 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 121.94 yen from 121.83 yen in the previous day's trading. The euro edged higher to $1.0933 from $1.0929.