US markets flat as traders await Fed minutes

<p>Investors look ahead to the publication of minutes of the US Federal Reserve’s last meeting.</p>

Investors are focusing on the Federal Reserve, which will publish minutes to its last policy meeting today (November 19th) at 2pm Washington time. 

They will look for signals that the central bank might start raising interest rates soon as the US employment rate continues to improve, although the global sluggish growth remains a concern.

US stocks were little changed this morning, with Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in December adding less than 0.1 per cent to 2,048.9 at 7:23 ET in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts rose less than 0.1 percent to 17,657.

"There’s been a build up to what the Fed will say today," Jasper Lawler, a market analyst at CMC Markets Plc in London, told Bloomberg. "The market’s been in quite a tight channel. Last time, they left the ‘considerable period of time’ phrase but they tweaked some other language. They’re clearly trying to get the message across that things are getting better," he added.

The last time the Fed released minutes from an Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the stock market had its biggest rally of the year. The minutes eased investors' fears of an interest rates rise, as the Fed said it did not plan to hike interest rates for a "considerable" amount of time.

The Fed had already said in September that there was no "calendar date" for an interest rate rise. "The Committee continues to anticipate, based on its assessment of these factors, that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee's two per cent longer-run goal, and provided that longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored," it stated.

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