A rally in global shares stalled, with Asian markets stuck in tight ranges early on Wednesday, as the prospect of a rate cut by the Federal Reserve was countered by worries a Sino-US first-stage trade deal could be delayed.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.16 percent from Tuesday’s three-month high while Japan's Nikkei slid 0.07 percent after hitting a one-year high the previous day.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index eked out a record intraday high, led by strong earnings from drug manufacturers such as Merck and Pfizer, though a disappointing profit report from Google parent Alphabet kept the technology-rich Nasdaq in the red.
Markets had erased gains after Reuters reported a US administration official said an interim trade agreement between Washington and Beijing might not be completed in time for signing in Chile next month as expected.
But the official added that it did not mean the accord was falling apart, which helped limit the damage to overall market sentiment.
The S&P 500 ended down 0.08 percent and the Nasdaq Composite 0.59 percent.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.42 percent on Tuesday to end at a 21-month high, having rallied 2.6 percent so far this month.
For the past few weeks, global equities have drawn support from hopes for a trade compromise between the United States and China, as well as from expectations of further US monetary policy loosening.
Investors now expect the Fed to cut interest rates by 0.25 percentage point for the third time this year later in the day.
“With a cut today completely priced in, markets are looking to the Fed’s stance on its policy outlook,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.
While Fed funds rate futures fully price in a 25-basis-point cut on Wednesday, only about a 30 percent chance of another cut in December has been priced in, compared with about 70 percent earlier this month.
“The Fed will probably try to avoid sounding too dovish. Its message will essentially be that while it could act in December if needed, it won’t unless there are big uncertainties on the economy,” said Sumitomo Mitsui’s Ichikawa.
Fading expectations of aggressive rate cuts by the Fed have lifted the two-year US bond yield to 1.644 percent, compared with a two-year low of 1.368 percent set in early October.
The 10-year US Treasuries yield stood at 1.833 percent, near a 1-1/2-month high of 1.860 percent touched earlier this week.
That has helped to lift the dollar against the yen. The dollar was traded at 108.87 yen, after having hit a three-month high of 109.07 yen.
The euro stood at $1.11135, having bounced off from Tuesday's low of $1.10735.
Sterling was little changed after Britain decided to hold an election on Dec. 12 following Prime Minister Boris Johnson winning approval from parliament for an early ballot aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.
While Johnson seeks to gain a parliamentary majority to ratify his Brexit deal, the election would be highly unpredictable as Brexit has fatigued and enraged swathes of voters, while eroding traditional loyalties to the two major parties, Conservative and Labour.
The currency last traded at $1.2866.Oil prices were little changed, with Brent crude futures up 0.02 percent at $61.60 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude lost 0.13 percent to $55.47 per barrel.