06/17/2015 13:27 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 01:12 EDT

Markets in Toronto and New York lower; traders await Fed interest rate news

TORONTO - North American markets were in the red early afternoon Wednesday as traders awaited the latest pronouncement on interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 31.94 points at 14,721.11, while the loonie was off 0.02 of a U.S. cent at 81.20 cents.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 41.48 points to 17,863.00, while the Nasdaq was down 9.22 points at 5,046.34 and the S&P 500 was 5.63 points lower at 2,090.66.On commodity markets, the July crude contract gave back 94 cents to US$59.03 a barrel, while the August gold contract fell $5.10 to US$1,175.80 an ounce.The U.S. Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day meeting later Wednesday after which it is expected to give its latest assessment of the U.S. economy and an update on interest rate policy.Investors will be looking closely for any hints on when the U.S. central bank may raise its benchmark interest rate. Historically low rates have helped drive the six-year bull market in stocks and there are fears that if the Fed raises rates too quickly it could stifle growth.Many economists expect the Fed to move on rates in September if the economy keeps strengthening.