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GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. shares edge higher as healthcare vote eyed; gold dips
March 23, 2017 / 6:23 PM / in 4 months

GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. shares edge higher as healthcare vote eyed; gold dips

4 Min Read

* U.S. shares inch up ahead of Trump healthcare bill vote

* European shares post biggest one-day gain in over 3 weeks

* Treasury yields edge higher, yen little changed

* Gold prices fall on firmer dollar (Updates to close of European markets)

By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose slightly on Thursday despite signs that President Donald Trump was struggling to get enough votes to pass a healthcare bill in Congress, while European shares rose on bank borrowing and gold prices slipped.

U.S. investors remained in suspense, with Trump poised to make a final push to secure the votes needed to begin dismantling Obamacare in the House of Representatives, amid signs enough Republicans might defect to jeopardize one of his top legislative priorities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was last up 54.34 points, or 0.26 percent, at 20,715.64. The S&P 500 was up 4.52 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,352.97. The Nasdaq Composite was up 7.71 points, or 0.13 percent, at 5,829.35.

In Europe, equity markets gained as banks took up 233.5 billion euros of four-year loans in the European Central Bank's last targeted longer-term refinancing operation, well above the 125 billion euros expected in a Reuters poll. That suggested banks are keen to stock up on cheap cash in anticipation of a continued rise in lending.

Some investors also said they were upbeat about prospects for European equities despite political risks and that Trump fears were overdone.

Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 0.78 percent higher, at 1,486.95 to notch its biggest daily gain in more than three weeks.

MSCI's all-country world equity index was last up 1.26 points, or 0.28 percent, at 448.18.

U.S. Republican leaders hoped to vote on Thursday on the healthcare bill but there were signs the deadline could be pushed back.

Analysts have warned that losing or delaying the bill would bruise investors' confidence in Trump's ability to deliver on his promises of tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

Concerns about delays in fiscal reform helped send stocks lower earlier this week, with the benchmark U.S. S&P 500 index hitting five-week lows and Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index hitting roughly two-week lows on Wednesday.

"Today's action is basically speculation about whether the House is going to pass this healthcare bill," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird.

Prices on safe-haven spot gold touched a more than three-week high of $1,253.12 and the dollar touched a fresh four-month low against the Japanese yen of 110.64 yen, but gold prices later dipped as the dollar stabilized against the yen and gained against the euro.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries prices edged lower, with yields last at 2.419 percent after touching a more than three-week low of 2.375 percent Wednesday on the doubts over Trump's ability to implement pro-growth policies.

Brent crude oil prices were flat, while U.S. crude prices struggled to recover from four-month lows amid investor concerns that OPEC-led supply cuts were not yet reducing record U.S. crude inventories.

"Headwinds from rising production and compliance issues will keep the upside limited for now," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, adding that risks were "skewed to the downside" and the upside for Brent was limited to $53. (Additional reporting by Marc Jones and Edmund Blair in London, Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru, Noel Randewich and Karen Brettell in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

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