July 17, 2018 / 12:41 AM / a month ago

Dollar firms after Fed chair's upbeat remarks, global stocks gain

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose on Tuesday against a basket of major currencies following an upbeat economic assessment from the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, while world stocks climbed as a heavy week of corporate earnings also kicked into gear.

Wall Street’s main indexes erased losses from the start of the session to end solidly positive. The U.S. two-year Treasury yield rose to its highest level in nearly a decade, with the yield curve at its flattest in nearly 11 years.

In testimony, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he sees the United States on track for years more of steady growth.

“He reiterated the view of the economy as being strong, growing at a solid pace with recent inflation data as more or less encouraging,” said Peter Cecchini, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York.

Powell was challenged in a congressional hearing by senators worried the Trump administration’s trade policies were already damaging businesses.

Concerns over a global trade dispute have roiled markets over the past few months. But in written testimony to the Senate Banking Committee and in his response to questions about a possible “trade war,” Powell largely discounted the risks.

“He basically completely dismissed any concerns about a trade tariff war,” said Boris Schlossberg, director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management in New York.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.53 points, or 0.22 percent, to 25,119.89, the S&P 500 gained 11.12 points, or 0.40 percent, to 2,809.55 and the Nasdaq Composite added 49.40 points, or 0.63 percent, to 7,855.12.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work at the post where UnitedHealth Group is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

As a busy week of corporate earnings began, Netflix Inc shares dropped 5.2 percent after the company’s subscriber growth fell short of Wall Street expectations, while Johnson & Johnson shares gained 3.5 percent, boosting the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials, after the healthcare company’s results topped estimates.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.26 percent, helped by Powell’s testimony, amid a batch of mixed company updates.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.18 percent.

The dollar index, tracked against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.47 percent, with the euro down 0.4 percent to $1.1662.

Sterling dropped to a four-month low against the euro and a roughly three-week trough versus the dollar as investors expected more Brexit challenges after Theresa May’s government only narrowly won a vote on a trade bill before the British parliament.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last fell 2/32 in price to yield 2.8637 percent, from 2.856 percent late on Monday.

The spread between two-year and 10-year Treasury yields hovered at its tightest level since July 2007, as Powell’s comments supported traders’ views of further rate increases from the U.S. central bank.

Crude oil prices steadied after falling steeply on Monday as the focus turned to falling inventories in the United States and further output constraints in Venezuela and Libya.

U.S. crude settled up 2 cents at $68.08 per barrel and Brent settled at $72.16, up 32 cents, or 0.45 percent.

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Additional reporting by Getrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and James Thorne in New York and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Susan Thomas and Bill Berkrot

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