November 1, 2017 / 4:00 PM / a year ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks start November with record, oil rally continues

* Optimism on earnings, global growth boost shares

* European stocks at two-year high

* Fed meeting, decision on next Fed chief in spotlight

* Oil prices hit highest level since mid-2015 (Updates with U.S. market open, changes dateline; previous LONDON)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Nov 1 (Reuters) - World stock markets scaled to a fresh high on Wednesday, boosted by solid corporate earnings and a climb in energy-related stocks as oil prices hit their highest in more than two years.

MSCI’s gauge of stock markets across the globe, fresh on the heels of a record twelfth straight month of gains, advanced ahead of a policy announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged amid speculation over who will be its next leader, but will likely point to a firming economy as it edges closer to a possible rate rise next month.

Data on Wednesday showed the U.S. economy remained on solid footing ahead of Friday’s payrolls report. Although a measure of factory activity lost ground as hurricane-related supply disruptions faded, another report showed private sector hiring surged.

“You look around and it causes you to look over your shoulder like why is everything so great,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

“We are still enjoying the sunshine, we may need to put on a little more sunblock - valuations may be a little over our skis.”

Shares of Japanese multinational Sony soared as much as 12.3 percent to a nine-year high after the electronics and entertainment firm forecast its best ever annual profit. U.S. listed shares of the stock were up 0.5 percent at $43.65.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46.16 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,423.4, the S&P 500 gained 4.62 points, or 0.18 percent, to 2,579.88 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.72 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,720.95.

After the closing bell in the U.S., earnings are expected from Facebook, which was up 0.94 percent as the biggest boost to the S&P 500. On Thursday, earnings are expected from iPhone maker Apple Inc.

Of 326 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 73 percent topped analyst expectations, compared with 72 percent over the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data. The earnings growth estimate for the quarter is currently at 7 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.54 percent after touching its highest level since August 2015 and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.46 percent.

A rise in oil prices to their highest level since mid-2015 also served to boost energy names. Crude climbed as data showed OPEC has significantly improved compliance with its pledged supply cuts and Russia is also widely expected to keep to the deal.

U.S. crude rose 0.29 percent to $54.54 per barrel and Brent was last at $60.98, up 0.07 percent on the day.

The S&P energy index gained 1.2 percent, on track for their best day since late September, while in Europe basic resources stocks jumped 2.9 percent.

Wednesday’s rate decision comes just before an expected announcement of the next head of the central bank. The White House has said U.S. President Donald Trump will announce his Fed pick on Thursday. Market participants widely expect it to be Fed Governor Jerome Powell, who is considered more dovish on interest rates than some other candidates and thus relatively stock-market friendly.

The dollar index rose 0.17 percent, with the euro down 0.14 percent to $1.1628.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.3595 percent, from 2.376 percent late on Tuesday.

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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