Stocks in Asia and Europe charged ahead Wednesday after the Dow Jones industrial average hit an all-time high on expectations the Federal Reserve will keep its economic stimulus fully in place until next year.
Investors bid shares higher ahead of the end of a two-day meeting of Fed officials at which the U.S. central bank is expected to maintain its monthly bond purchases of $85 billion that are aimed at stimulating economic growth by keeping borrowing rates low. The Fed will release its policy statement Wednesday afternoon in the U.S.
The U.S. central bank's cheap money policy has underpinned stock markets worldwide for several years, as near-zero interest returns on bonds and savings push investors into riskier assets such as shares. Markets had been roiled by expectations that the Fed would begin reducing its stimulus this year. But weaker U.S. hiring and other economic indicators have built a case for "tapering" of the bond purchases to be delayed until next year.
"The idea being priced in is that tapering might not come in December but possibly even in March next year so that is another issue that drives markets higher," said Herald van der Linde, Hong Kong -based head of Asia equity strategy at HSBC.
In midday European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent to 6,804.90. The CAC-40 in France climbed 0.5 percent to 4,301.62 and Germany's DAX was up 0.3 percent to 9,054.31.
Shares of Volkswagen, Europe's largest automaker by sales volume, rose 4.3 percent after the company beat analyst expectations for earnings and stayed with its profit forecast.
Futures in New York indicated a higher opening on Wall Street following Tuesday's record closes for the Dow at 15,680.35 and the Standard & Poor's 500 at 1,771.95. Ahead of the start of trading Wednesday in New York, the Dow and the S&P 500 futures were both up 0.3 percent.
Asia's key benchmark, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo, closed 1.2 percent higher at 14,502.35. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 2 percent to 23,304.02. China's Shanghai Composite finished up 1.5 percent at 2,160.46. Most other indexes in the region also recorded gains. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.2 percent to 5,430.90.
Oil fell 89 cents to $97.32 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The euro rose 1.3 percent $1.3763, while the dollar rose to 98.23 yen from 98.19 yen.