GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar, stocks advance on U.S. jobless data

Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:32am EDT

* New U.S. jobless claims fall near six-year low last week

* Stocks rise on upbeat U.S. jobless data

* Dollar gains on U.S. data, weakness in euro

* Brent oil rises after sharp losses early this month

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar advanced and global stocks rose, led by solid gains on Wall Street, after weekly U.S. jobless claims data suggested an improving labor market, which could support the Federal Reserve's plan to begin winding down its stimulus program.

The Dow and benchmark S&P 500 index snapped a five-day losing streak after the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week near a six-year low.

The data helped ease concerns about the U.S. economy that the Fed raised last week when it left its stimulative bond-buying intact to the surprise of many investors.

"The sky is not falling, things are picking up," said Chris Rupkey, managing director and chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. "A very good monthly jobs report is out there somewhere on the horizon. The Fed may have to wind down and exit these policies quicker than they think."

Other data showed the U.S. government left its estimate for economic growth in the second quarter unchanged at 2.5 percent.

A measure of global equity markets, MSCI's all-country world index rose 0.27 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 of leading European shares edged 0.8 percent higher to 1,257.97.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 96.01 points, or 0.63 percent, at 15,369.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 9.16 points, or 0.54 percent, at 1,701.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 31.50 points, or 0.84 percent, at 3,792.60.

The dollar's advance was helped by the euro's losses caused by political uncertainty in Italy. Allies of scandal-ridden former Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi renewed threats to bring down the coalition government if he is barred from politics as part of his punishment for tax fraud.

The euro was down 0.27 percent at $1.3489.

Against the yen, the dollar was up 0.56 percent at 98.97 yen.

But the dollar's gains and jump in U.S. stocks are expected to be limited because the impasse in congressional negotiations over increasing the federal borrowing limit could lead to a possible federal debt default.

Republicans and Democrats also are at odds over passing other legislation to provide stop-gap funding for federal agencies that would avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday urged his caucus to show flexibility over a measure to keep the government open, a fellow Republican said.

U.S. Treasuries prices slipped on the stronger jobless data.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes, down 2/32 in price before the report was issued, fell 8/32 afterward to yield 2.6535 percent.

Gold edged lower after the dollar firmed. Spot gold, steady above $1,330 before the jobless report, fell 0.6 percent to $1,325.81 an ounce.

Oil prices rose despite easing political worries about Iran and an improving supply picture as traders sought bargains after sharp losses earlier this month.

Brent oil gained 41 cents to $108.73 a barrel, while

U.S. crude futures rose 24 cents to $102.90 a barrel.

On top of concern about the timing of a change in monetary policy, dealers focused attention on the budgetary and debt battles going on in Washington.

Congress is struggling to pass a spending bill to keep the U.S. government funded beyond Oct. 1, but also a fight is expected over raising the debt limit.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned that the United States would exhaust its borrowing capacity no later than Oct. 17, though analysts reckon it could keep paying its debts at least until the end of the month.

Elsewhere, data from the European Central Bank showed that lending to companies fell in all of the euro zone's big countries in August, highlighting the questionable strength of the currency bloc's economic recovery.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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