US markets saw modest gains overnight as the US Federal Reserve began its much anticipated policy meeting, during which it is expected to make slight changes to its stimulus program and keep interest rates low. 

The outcome will be known tomorrow.

On Wall Street the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.25 per cent to 15,529.

The S&P 500 rose 0.4 per cent to 1,704. 

Official figures out overnight indicate the US economy is starting to pick up, with some inflation measures starting to tick higher, and confidence among home builders is also rising.

Across the Atlantic, markets mostly retreated despite a key report showing confidence among German investors has reached its highest level for more than three years, boosting optimism for a euro zone recovery.

In London, the FTSE 100 lost 0.8 per cent to 6,570, while Germany's DAX lost 0.2 per cent to 8,596.

The Australian dollar picked up against the US dollar overnight, and at 9am (AEST) was buying 93.55 US cents.

The price of West Texas crude oil fell to the lowest level in almost four weeks as the risk of military action on Syria eased.

It finished trade at $US105.30 a barrel.

Singopore's Tapis crude price also continued to retreat and was at $US115.XX a barrel.

The spot gold price also continued to moderate overnight, and was buying $US1310 an ounce.