Stocks are up as traders shift focus to see just how ‘patient’ the Fed will be

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  • US futures and European stocks are up in anticipation of the Federal Reserve cutting its forecast for interest-rate hikes this year.
  • However, the Fed is likely to reduce its economic growth forecasts.

Traders drove US futures and European stocks higher on Tuesday as they anticipated the Federal Reserve would commit to just one or even zero interest-rate hikes this year.

Weak inflation, signs of a global economic slowdown, and stock market volatility at the tail end of 2018 could prompt the Fed to cut its forecast of two planned rate increases this year.

“Owing to a weaker run of economic data, the Fed are expected to rein in the number of expected interest rate rises, which currently sits at two across the year,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group. “Close attention will also be paid to any plans to run down the balance sheet and the Fed’s economic forecasts.”

“The prospect of low rates for longer is music to the ears of equities, as firms benefit from lower borrowing costs,” he said.

The prospect of low rates for longer is music to the ears of equities, as firms benefit from lower borrowing costs.

The Federal Open Market Committee adopted a “patient” stance towards future rate hikes at the end of January, after lifting rates four times last year.

Economists also expect the Fed to lower its economic growth projections, according to the Financial Times. The gloomier outlook comes amid rallies in stock markets.

The FOMC monetary policy announcement is due on Wednesday at 4.00 Washington time.

Here’s the market roundup as of 9.02 a.m. (5.02 a.m. ET):

  • US stocks are set to open higher, with the futures underlying the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all up by about 0.2%.
  • European stocks are in the green, with the FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX, and the Euro Stoxx 50 all up by about 0.4%. It’s a resilient showing after Parliament rejected Theresa May’s attempts to put her Brexit deal up for another vote. The standoff raises the prospect of a delay to Brexit of 9 to 12 months, and continued uncertainty for pound traders, UK stock investors, and others.
  • Most Asian stock indices closed in the red, with the Shanghai Composite Index down about 0.1%, and the China A50 down 0.7%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.12%.
  • Oil prices have reached their highest level this year after OPEC+ recommitted to cutting output and shoring up crude prices.
  • Gold inched higher to $1,305 – a substantial increase from below $1,200 in August 2018 – as skittish investors shifted some of their cash to safe havens.