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GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks rise, oil gains as Crimea remains in focus
March 21, 2014 / 3:35 PM / 4 years ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks rise, oil gains as Crimea remains in focus

* Fed speakers eyed for more clues to U.S. policy moves

* Stocks buoyed as fear of further Ukraine tensions ebb

* Oil prices rise on fear of supply disruption over Crimea (Adds opening of U.S. markets; changes byline and dateline, previous LONDON)

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - World markets steadied on Friday after a volatile week driven by speculation over shifts in U.S. monetary policy, with equities around the globe on the rise and the euro up against the dollar, while crude oil rose on fear of supply disruptions over Crimea.

The benchmark S&P 500 index hit a new record intra-day high as equities were boosted by Moscow’s assertion that no other Ukrainian region would be subject to intervention.

Brent crude rose more than 1 percent to above $107 a barrel as U.S. sanctions against Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter, increased fears of a supply disruption.

Brent remained on track for a fourth weekly loss, however, and President Vladimir Putin signed laws completing Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Friday.

Both the S&P 500 and the Dow were on track for a fourth day of gains this week, even though some analysts say equities are vulnerable to any escalation in U.S.-Russian tensions.

“The path of least resistance for markets is up, and so far it doesn’t think the Ukraine issue is too big of a negative since no one really thinks that Putin will do anything too drastic,” said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors Inc in San Antonio. “Of course if things do heat up, it would really become a headwind for markets.”

Early strength in Europe helped MSCI’s all-country world equity index trade up 0.47 percent. The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index rose 0.4 percent after a major options expiry.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 90.06 points, or 0.55 percent, to 16,421.11. The S&P 500 gained 8.28 points, or 0.44 percent, to 1,880.29 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.108 points, or 0.21 percent, to 4,310.178.

Companies tied to the pace of economic growth were among the biggest gainers, with energy and industrial rallying. Joy Global Inc jumped 3.8 percent to $57.26 while Halliburton Co was up 1.8 percent to $58.41.

Speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve officials later in the day will be parsed for clues to the pace of U.S. tightening and could drive fresh market moves.

New Fed Chair Janet Yellen surprised investors mid-week by hinting rates might rise earlier than expected, while U.S. economic data on Thursday was mixed.

That kept the dollar near a three-week peak against a basket of major currencies and helped initial gains against the safe-haven Swiss franc and yen. The dollar later fell 0.13 percent against the yen and 0.17 against the franc.

It dipped 0.2 percent against the euro, however, after the single currency got a boost from euro zone current account data, which hit a record high in January.

The euro hit an intraday high of $1.38011.

German benchmark debt futures were steady, rising 7 ticks to 142.47.

Benchmark 10-year notes were last up 3/32 in price to yield 2.76 percent,

Brent crude was up $1.2 at $107.65 a barrel. U.S. crude for May delivery, which became the front-month contract on Friday, was up $1.10 at $100.00 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Simon Jessop, Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Chris Reese

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