GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares rise after Bernanke comments, euro lower
* Bernanke flexible on timeline for stimulus program * European shares rebound after BoE minutes shock * Bank of America rises after strong profit growth * Euro falls 0.5 percent, gold and silver decline By Ryan Vlastelica NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - Stock markets around the world rose on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the timeline for the U.S. central bank ending its stimulus program this year was not set in stone. European shares rebounded from early weakness that came after minutes from a Bank of England meeting showed all policymakers voted against extending the bank's bond purchase program, which, like the Fed's, has been widely credited with boosting equity gains this year. The Fed recently said it would begin scaling back its accommodative policies later this year if economic growth meets its targets. While Bernanke reiterated in a speech to Congress on Wednesday that that was still the case, he noted that asset purchases "are by no means on a pre-set course." In a question-and-answer session with the House Financial Services Committee, Bernanke said the Fed's intention "is to keep monetary policy highly accommodative for the foreseeable future" because of high unemployment levels and below-target inflation. The U.S. dollar index rose 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies, while the euro fell 0.5 percent. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 13/32, the yield at 2.4832 percent. Yields on the 10-year have jumped since May, when Bernanke hinted that the Fed's bond purchase program would be slowed this year. "Nothing he said drastically changes the game, but markets have become more comfortable with Fed policy," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York, adding that it was a positive for markets that the rise in interest rates could be enough to push the Fed to extend its stimulus. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.45 points, or 0.07 percent, at 15,463.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.29 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,681.55. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 12.74 points, or 0.35 percent, at 3,611.24. The MSCI International ACWI Price Index rose 0.3 percent. U.S. markets were also supported by Bank of America, which rose 2.4 percent to $14.26 after posting a steep jump in profits. Analysts expect S&P 500 company earnings to have grown 3 percent in the second quarter, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to data from Thomson Reuters. Of the 36 S&P components that reported results through Tuesday morning, 63.9 percent beat analysts' expectations and 55.6 percent surpassed revenue estimates. Other S&P 500 companies scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday include American Express Co., eBay Inc. , IBM and Intel Corp. European shares recovered from the surprise news that there were no calls for new UK stimulus at Mark Carney's first meeting in charge at the Bank of England. Carney and the bank's other eight policymakers voted unanimously against more bond purchases, setting aside their differences ahead of a soon-to-be-released review on giving guidance about future interest rates. "It's quite a surprise that nobody voted for more (BoE stimulus)," said Deutsche Bank economist George Buckley, referring to bond buying known as quantitative easing. "Now the question is, if they don't do anything on forward guidance, do they then go back to reverting to QE? I suspect not because the data has shown signs of recovering." European shares rose 0.6 percent while German Bunds rose 0.1 percent to 143.89. GOLD SLIPS In commodity markets, gold fell 1.3 percent, retreating from a 0.8 percent gain in Tuesday's session. Copper prices fell 1.7 percent to below $7,000 a ton, giving up the previous session's 1.2 percent gain. Brent crude prices rose 0.3 percent and hovered near a 3-1/2 month high. "Traders would be very cautious in taking fresh positions given that they have been burnt on both sides, on the dovish side as well as the hawkish side," said Ben Le Brun, an analyst at OptionsXpress in Sydney.
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