February 26, 2018 / 4:33 PM / 8 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, dollar gain before big week for central banks

(Adds U.S. market open, byline, dateline; previous LONDON)

* Tech stocks, Berkshire Hathaway push Wall St higher

* Dollar gains, bond yields fall ahead of Powell’s testimony

* Chinese stocks rally as Xi set to stay in power

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Global equity markets advanced on Monday and the dollar inched higher as investors bet the new head of the U.S. Federal Reserve will steer a steady course on monetary policy when he addresses lawmakers this week.

U.S. Treasury yields fell as traders reduced bearish bond positions ahead of new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony before Congress on Tuesday that will be his first major address since taking over from Janet Yellen earlier this month.

Euro zone government bond yields also drifted lower as investors awaited a speech by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi later in the day and a flash estimate of euro zone inflation data for February that is due on Wednesday.

Technology shares and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway drove gains on Wall Street while consumer staples and healthcare stocks pushed European bourses higher, led by Novartis, Unilever and Nestle.

Most traders believe Powell will stay the course and gradually raise interest rates despite indications inflation is perking up.

“There’s some talk of (Powell) being a little more open to tolerating inflation running above the 2 percent target. The focus will be to see if he is indeed open to that and the rationale behind it,” said Aaron Clark, portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management.

MSCI’s gauge of equity market performance in 47 countries gained 0.35 percent and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares rose 0.39 percent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 164.86 points, or 0.65 percent, to 25,474.85. The S&P 500 gained 9.32 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,756.62 and the Nasdaq Composite added 30.19 points, or 0.41 percent, to 7,367.58.

Equity markets rose earlier in Asia, with Chinese stocks closing 1.2 percent higher after the ruling Communist Party set the stage for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely.

The dollar rose in choppy trade as the prospect the Fed will raise rates more than the three times it has signaled for 2018 has bolstered the U.S. currency the past few weeks.

“If Powell suggests that the Federal Reserve could raise U.S. interest rates four times in 2018, it could be seen as a positive sign for the U.S. dollar,” said Jameel Ahmad, global head of currency strategy and market research at online brokerage FXTM.

The dollar index was up 0.04 percent, with the euro up 0.06 percent to $1.23. The Japanese yen firmed 0.01 percent versus the greenback at 106.90 per dollar.

Germany’s benchmark Bund yield briefly touched a one-month low and the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield slid after last week it reached a four-year high near 3 percent on concerns about growing inflation and growing U.S. government deficit.

The 10-year Bund yield touched a one-month low at 0.639 percent before steadying at around 0.65 percent.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note last rose 9/32 in price to push yields down to 2.8405 percent.

Oil prices rebounded, supported by comments from Saudi Arabia that it would continue to curb shipments in line with the effort by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut global supplies.

U.S. crude rose 29 cents to $63.84 per barrel and Brent gained 23 cents to $67.54 per barrel.

Reporting by Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru

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