* Turkish lira strengthens, below $2.14 for 1st time this
* Asia stocks outside Japan hit highest level in 2014
* Yellen's remarks give equities support
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 31 Stocks in major markets rose
for a fifth straight session on Monday while gold, the yen and
other safety assets fell after Federal Reserve Chair Janet
Yellen reinforced the need for "extraordinary" commitment to
support the U.S. economy.
The euro continued to bounce back against the U.S. dollar
even as softer-than-forecast inflation numbers added to the
discussion of whether the European Central Bank will cut
interest rates when it meets later this week.
The S&P 500 was setting up for a monthly gain, the 14th in
the past 17 months. A winning quarter for the index would be the
fifth straight, matching streaks seen in 2006-2007 and
Yellen on Monday gave a strong defense for the Fed's
easy-money policies in her first public speech since becoming
the Fed's chief.
"I think this extraordinary commitment is still needed and
will be for some time, and I believe that view is widely shared
by my fellow policymakers at the Fed," Yellen said at a
community reinvestment conference in Chicago.
Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil
Securities in New York, said: "I don't think (Yellen) is going
to pull back on the taper, she is just being realistic.
"Her comments are just recognition that things continue to
muddle along but I don't think she is changing the path at all,
which is why the market is going to come under a little bit of
pressure starting tomorrow," he added
Polcari said the end-of-quarter trading was also giving U.S.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 103.53 points
or 0.63 percent, to 16,426.59, the S&P 500 gained 12.46
points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,870.08, and the Nasdaq Composite
added 44.229 points, or 1.06 percent, to 4,199.988.
An index of European blue-chips hit its highest
intraday level in more than five years, and the FTSEurofirst 300
index of leading shares was up 0.3 percent.
Overnight in Asia, the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific
shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent to close
at its highest level this year on heightened speculation that
Beijing will launch new spending measures and on reduced
tensions out of Ukraine.
Tokyo's Nikkei stock average also rose, gaining 0.9
percent to touch a three-week high, supported by comments from
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday that Beijing was ready to
support the cooling economy, saying the government had the
necessary policies in place and would push ahead with
INFLATION DATA AND THE ECB
The euro rose to a three-week high against the yen and edged
up versus the dollar after hitting a one-month low to the
greenback on Friday, even as inflation across the euro zone fell
to the lowest level in over four years. The data initially
supported expectations the ECB could act to counter the
deflationary threat as early as this week.
Forex traders polled by Reuters, however, said the ECB will
keep monetary policy unchanged when it meets on Thursday.
"The euro got trashed around the inflation numbers but then
came roaring back," said Graham Davidson, a spot dealer at NAB
"I think the market has probably priced in the story on the
fall in inflation. The bottom line is that the economy is
recovering and my hunch would be that the (ECB) does nothing."
The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose on Monday to as
high as 2.7680 percent, trading within the top half
of last week's range, while the yield on the 30-year bond
briefly traded above 3.6 percent as U.S. stocks held
In emerging markets, the Turkish lira hit its highest level
against the U.S. dollar this year after Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan declared victory in local polls that had become a
referendum on his rule.
The results stirred hopes that months of political
turbulence would ease. The lira touched 2.1375, its
strongest level against the greenback since late December.
Spot gold prices fell 0.4 percent and were trading
near a six-week low hit Friday. U.S. crude oil futures
dropped 0.6 percent after three days of gains and Brent
fell 0.7 percent after four winning days.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Chuck
Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)