World stock markets modestly higher after Fed, as Scotland votes on independence



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SEOUL, South Korea — World stocks mostly rose Thursday as Scotland votes in an independence referendum that could shake the U.K. economy and markets. Sentiment was underpinned by the Federal Reserve's signal it is not rushing to raise interest rates.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.4 percent to 6,805.78 and Germany's DAX rose 0.8 percent to 9.742.46. France's CAC 40 advanced 0.5 percent to 4,454.78. Wall Street was set for further gains after the Dow set a record-high in the previous session. S&P 500 and Dow futures were both up 0.3 percent.

SCOTTISH VOTE: Scotland opened polling stations on Thursday for a referendum on whether the country will leave its union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland and become an independent state. The first exit polls will be released after voting closes at 10 p.m. local time, or 2100 GMT. Opinion polls have suggested the "Yes' campaign favoring independence is neck and neck with the 'No' campaign that wants Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom.

THE QUOTE: "A 'yes' vote is likely to weigh heavily on the sterling and equities. A 'no' vote should result in a relief rally and is likely to be positive for the sterling and equities," said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a market commentary. The pound, also called sterling, was up 0.3 percent on the day in London, at $1.6324.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian stock markets started out weak but mostly erased losses by the end of the day. Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished 0.9 percent lower at 24,168.72 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.7 percent to 2,047.74. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 bounced back, closing at 5,415.80, up 0.2 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 outperformed the region, gaining 1 percent to 16,067.57 as the yen traded at a six-year low against the dollar. Markets in mainland China, India and Southeast Asia also rose.

FED WATCH: The Fed statement kept its "considerable" wording in reference to how much time would elapse before it starts raising interest rates but raised its estimate of what the Fed's benchmark interest rate should be at the end of 2015: to 1.38 percent from 1.13 percent decided at its June meeting. The Fed has kept its benchmark rate at a record-low level near zero since the 2008 financial crisis to support economic recovery; the super-easy monetary policy has also boosted stock markets. Most economists expect the first rate increase to happen by the middle of next year. Before the Fed's meeting, there was speculation the Fed might signal an earlier start to rate hikes.

SONY WOES: Sony Corp. dived 9 percent in Tokyo after forecasting its annual loss would swell to $2.15 billion, citing a writedown of its mobile business amid intense competition from Chinese rivals. The once dominant Japanese company cancelled dividends for the first time in more than five decades.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 25 cents to $94.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 46 cents on Wednesday. The price of oil fell after the Energy Department reported a 3.7 million barrel increase in U.S. crude inventories last week. Most analysts had expected a decline, which is typical for this time of year.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.2871 from $1.2840 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 108.84 yen from 108.63 yen.

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