December 24, 2019 / 4:51 PM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks hover near record highs, gold breaches $1,500

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

* World stocks hover near record highs, best year since 2009

* Hopes for monetary easing lift China shares

* Gold futures soar past $1,500 an ounce

* U.S. Treasury yields, dollar edge down

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Gold surged past $1,500 an ounce and a gauge of global equity markets hovered near record highs on Tuesday in a year-end rally spurred by hopes of a U.S.-Sino Phase 1 trade deal and as China’s latest policy easing pledge added to investor optimism.

President Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a ceremony to sign the initial phase of the pending trade pact, the latest remarks by the U.S. leader to indicate the deal is on the verge of being finalized.

European stocks ground out fresh record gains as did the Nasdaq after Wall Street opened with equities remaining on track to post their best year in a decade.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index added 0.12% to touch an all-time high and the domestically focused mid-cap index in Britain outshone, rising 0.6% to hit a new high.

France’s CAC 40 and Spain’s IBEX 35 both closed little changed, while German, Italian and Swiss country indexes were closed for the day.

Blue-chip shares in China rose 0.7% after Premier Li Keqiang said the government was considering more measures to lower corporate financing costs and hinted at “targeted” cuts in banks’ reserve requirement ratio.

Gold surging past $1,500 an ounce was big news in a quiet pre-Christmas session, and a sign that investors may be hedging against a possible inflation hike next year, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

“Even today with lighter volumes and high absenteeism, gold has breached $1,500 and energy stocks are starting to rise a little bit,” Arone said.

“It’s hard to take too much away on a day like today. But to me it’s indicative of this idea that potentially you could have an inflation scare in 2020 and perhaps investors are beginning to position themselves for such a scare,” Arone said.

Arone said he doubted inflation will be strong enough to negatively impact the market, but it could provide a jolt to investors lulled by interest rates below the historic norm.

U.S. gold futures hit a high of $1,502.20 an ounce.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.01%, while its emerging market index lost 0.23%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 19.97 points, or 0.07%, to 28,531.56. The S&P 500 lost 0.28 points, or 0.01%, to 3,223.73 and the Nasdaq Composite added 3.41 points, or 0.04%, to 8,949.06.

The dollar eased against the euro in holiday-thinned trading and U.S. Treasury yields slipped. Euro zone bond markets were shut.

The dollar index fell 0.02%, with the euro up 0.04% to $1.109. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.04% versus the greenback to 109.36 per dollar.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 6/32 in price to yield 1.9154%.

Oil prices rose after Russia said cooperation with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on supply cuts would continue and amid optimism that the United States and China could finalize the trade pact.

Brent crude gained 74 cents to $67.13 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose 46 cents to $60.98 a barrel.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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