February 19, 2014 / 4:11 PM / in 4 years

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks tick up before Fed minutes; dollar, euro flat

* Shares in Europe, U.S. rise ahead of Fed minutes

* Dollar near lowest level of the year vs currency basket

* Oil rises, but gold and copper prices flat on the day

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Stock markets around the world rose slightly on Wednesday, continuing their recent advance as investors did not expect anything hinting at a change in monetary policy to be announced in upcoming minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The dollar hovered near its lowest level of the year, while both the euro and the yen were little changed on the day. Gold prices were also near breakeven levels.

Later on Wednesday, the Fed will release minutes of its January policy meeting, when it decided to trim its monthly asset buying by another $10 billion.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has since indicated that the central bank was still inclined to keep tapering its bond purchases, though markets assume the run of soft data will encourage caution in its efforts.

Recent data in the U.S., including on the housing and labor markets, has come in below forecasts, though many analysts chalk the weakness up to poor weather and don’t expect the Fed to adjust the slowing of its stimulus program as a result.

If the central bank were to slow the pace of tapering, it may raise concerns that the economy is too weak to grow without outside assistance.

“The market has shown a great ability to dismiss any weakness as weather related, whether or not that’s appropriate, and it shows no sign of stopping its upward momentum,” said Steve Sosnick, equity-risk manager at Timber Hill/Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“While a change in the minutes could move the market, for now investors don’t seem too worried.”

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 84.55 points, or 0.52 percent, at 16,214.95. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 5.24 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,846.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.02 points, or 0.00 percent, at 4,272.77.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 4/32 in price, with the yield at 2.6943 percent.

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies, recovering slightly after slipping to its lowest level of 2014 overnight. Both the euro and yen were little changed on the day.

European shares rose 0.2 percent while the MSCI World index added 0.1 percent.


Dealers have been surprised by the euro’s resilience given speculation the European Central Bank would have to ease policy further to avert the risk of deflation.

“One could expect that if the real economy is getting up and if we see that in Germany wage increases are quite substantial, there might be a certain self-correcting trend (in inflation),” ECB member Ewald Nowotny told Reuters in an interview.

“So we will see whether this needs some specific action or whether ... there would be a merit for waiting.”

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei pared its early losses to end off 0.5 percent, battling to maintain the momentum of Tuesday’s 3 percent rally which followed a decision by the Bank of Japan to expand a scheme to encourage more bank lending.

The emerging markets focus remained on rising unrest in both Ukraine and Thailand. Ukraine’s sovereign bonds and currency both tumbled as a renewed wave of violence hit the capital Kiev, adding pressure on Russia’s rouble which has hit an all-time low against the euro.

The rouble’s weakness stemmed mainly from the finance ministry’s plan to buy foreign currency to replenish one of its sovereign wealth funds. Moscow shares also fell sharply.


Dealers also kept a careful eye on China’s central bank after it drained funds from the money market on Tuesday, though it took no new action on Wednesday which helped the Shanghai market bounce by 1.1 percent.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is trying to engineer a gradual upward shift in the cost of money to encourage companies to deleverage and discourage high-risk shadow banking activity, though investors are anxious it could hurt growth.

In commodity markets, both gold and copper prices were flat. Brent crude rose 0.3 percent and U.S. crude futures rose 0.4 percent on forecasts of lower crude and oil products stockpiles due to new pipeline capacity and robust winter demand.

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