(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London closed lower on Wednesday, as investors anxiously look ahead to this evening's Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes.

The FTSE 100 index closed down 56.70 points, 0.7%, at 7,662.51. The FTSE 250 ended up 9.34 points at 19,118.97, and the AIM All-Share closed down 3.03 points, or 0.4%, at 750.02.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.7% at 767.16, the Cboe UK 250 closed up marginally at 16,527.66, and the Cboe Small Companies ended down 0.1% at 14,469.48.

Stocks in New York were lower at the London equities close, with the DJIA down 0.1%, the S&P 500 index down 0.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.5%.

Minutes from the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be released at 1900 GMT.

At that meeting, the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that a cut in interest rates in March is not the "most likely case". Since his comments, strong consumer and wholesale price inflation figures have backed this wait-and-see stance.

Investors will be hoping for some more clues on the Fed's future monetary policy.

AJ Bell's Russ Mould said: "The Fed kept rates unchanged for the fourth time in a row at the January meeting and indicated it was not ready to start cutting. The meeting minutes should lift the lid on this thinking and more likely spell out that inflation needs to come down further before the central bank reaches for the scissors."

Investors are also nervously eyeing quarterly results from Nvidia, which are due after the closing bell in New York. Its shares were down 2.2% in New York.

"The market is keenly awaiting Nvidia's earnings release after the market's close to assess the mega cap's performance and its potential to sustain the recent rally in the market. Given the continuing enthusiasm for artificial intelligence and the industry's impact on sentiment, the company's results could have a significant influence on the market as a whole," Ali Jaffar at DHF Capital explained.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2622 at the London equities close Wednesday, lower compared to USD1.2649 at the close on Tuesday. The euro stood at USD1.0812 at the European equities close Wednesday, down against USD1.0818 at the same time on Tuesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY150.25, higher compared to JPY149.84 late Tuesday.

Markets in Europe were outperforming those in London.

In European equities on Wednesday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended up 0.2%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended up 0.3%.

In Paris, Carrefour shares jumped 5.3%.

The Massy, France-based retailer said adjusted net income in 2023 rose 7.6% to EUR1.30 billion from EUR1.21 billion the year before. Adjusted earnings per share climbed 12% to EUR1.83 in 2023 from EUR1.63 in 2022.

Carrefour also set an annual dividend growth target of at least 5% on this higher base and launched a new EUR700 million share buyback program in 2024.

Back in London, HSBC plummeted 8.4%.

HSBC announced further share buybacks as annual profit soared on the back of higher interest rates, although its fourth-quarter performance suffered due to an impairment.

The Asia-focused lender said pretax profit in 2023 surged 78% to USD30.35 billion from USD17.06 billion. Total revenue rose 30% to USD66.06 billion, from USD50.62 billion.

HSBC said it has approved a fourth interim dividend of USD0.31 per share, bringing the total dividend to USD0.61 per share, almost double that of USD0.32 in 2022. HSBC also said it will begin a share buyback of up to USD2.0 billion, which it expects to complete by the announcement of its first quarter results.

In the FTSE 250, shares in Bytes Technology tumbled 11% after the sudden exit of its Chief Executive Neil Murphy.

Bytes said Murphy had resigned with immediate effect after disclosing to the board a number of undisclosed trades in the company.

The trades were not disclosed to the company or the market in compliance with the PDMR disclosure requirements, it added.

Bytes said it was working to clarify the details of the undisclosed trades.

The company said Sam Mudd, executive director and managing director of Phoenix Software, will assume the role of interim CEO.

On AIM, Shield Therapeutics shares sunk 51%.

The commercial-stage pharmaceutical company said it was expecting stellar results for 2023, but this success was overshadowed by a mistake in the company's previous prescription forecasts.

Total prescriptions tripled over the year to around 77,000. However, this was markedly down from the company's previous forecasts of between 100,000 and 130,000.

Shield said that this was due to a mistake in the projection methodology used by its third-party data provider, which resulted in a significant overstatement of total prescriptions over the year. The company said it was working with its data provider to ensure that these data mistakes are not repeated, and will provide an additional update alongside its full results.

Brent oil was quoted at USD82.84 a barrel at the London equities close Wednesday, up from USD82.09 late Tuesday. Gold was quoted at USD2,024.88 an ounce at the London equities close Wednesday, lower against USD2,027.87 at the close on Tuesday.

In Thursday's UK corporate calendar, there are full year results from Anglo American, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Rolls-Royce, Lloyds and WPP.

The economic calendar for Thursday has a slew of PMI data. There is also the weekly US initial jobless claims.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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