July 19, 2019 / 3:22 PM / 2 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Fed rate cut hopes, Microsoft lift stocks; dollar bounces

* MSCI ACWI gains, still set for weekly fall

* Crude choppy after Trump says U.S. Navy destroys Iranian drone

* Dollar recovers as dovish Fed comments walked back (Updates with open of U.S. markets, changes dateline; previous LONDON)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - A gauge of global stocks climbed on Friday as investors expect an aggressively dovish U.S. Federal Reserve at its next meeting and as early returns on earnings season have been better than anticipated.

On Wall Street, major indexes moved higher in early trading, buoyed by a gain of 1.92% in Microsoft as quarterly results topped expectations, powered by its cloud business.

Stocks are getting some follow-through to the positive side following Thursday’s late rally after two influential Federal Reserve officials - New York Fed President John Williams and Fed Board of Governors Vice Chair Richard Clarida - laid out the case for quick action by the central bank to support the U.S. economy.

However, Williams’ comments were later walked back, with the New York Fed saying the speech was not about potential action at the upcoming meeting.

That dialed back expectations to about 43 percent for a rate cut of half a percentage point at the Fed’s July 30-31 meeting, according to CME’s FedWatch tool. Markets see it as a certainty the Fed will cut rates by at least a quarter of a percentage point at the meeting.

“Some optimism is being carried forward from New York Fed President John Williams’ comments and largely better-than-expected corporate earnings so far, highlighted by Microsoft,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

Earnings expectations for the S&P 500 have been trending upward recently and show growth of 1% for the second quarter, according to Refinitiv data. As recently as Tuesday, earnings were expected to show a decline for the quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 65.54 points, or 0.24%, to 27,288.51, the S&P 500 gained 3.81 points, or 0.13%, to 2,998.92 and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.07 points, or 0.26%, to 8,228.31.

European shares were little changed, having given up early gains of as much as 0.7%, as political turmoil weighed on Italian stocks after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he would meet coalition partner and leader of the 5-Star Movement Luigi Di Maio amid speculation that the increasingly unwieldy government might collapse.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.03 and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.33%.

Despite Friday’s advance, MSCI’s index was poised to snap a six-week streak of gains.

The walk back in the dovish Fed comments helped the dollar recover from declines in the prior session, while the euro weakened as expectations of a rate cut by the European Central Bank as early as next week picked up steam.

The dollar index rose 0.33%, with the euro down 0.51% to $1.1217.

In oil markets, crude retreated after climbing roughly 2% after the United States said its navy had destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a major choke-point for global crude flows, raising concerns about supply disruptions out of the region.

Prices pulled back, however, with Brent prices on track for their biggest weekly decline of the year and U.S. crude on pace for its biggest weekly drop in two months.

U.S. crude fell 0.09% to $55.25 per barrel and Brent was last at $62.13, up 0.32% on the day.

Additional reporting by Medha Singh and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler

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