NEW YORK Stock markets around the world extended their rally on Thursday as investors felt reassured the Federal Reserve would unwind stimulus measures with care, while the yen and the euro fell.
Japanese shares surged 1.3 percent, with market participants looking to Upper House elections in Japan this weekend. The dollar gained 1 percent against the yen, to 100.56 yen.
The euro fell and the dollar rose against a basket of currencies as Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before Congress for a second day, this time to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.
On Wednesday, Bernanke had reiterated to a U.S. House of Representatives panel his recent assurances that the U.S. central bank will only start phasing out its huge monetary support program once it is sure the economy is strong enough to stand on its own feet.
The comments lured investors to equities, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average to a record Thursday and putting the S&P 500 on track for its tenth positive session out of the past 11.
"Bernanke has made equities the only place for most people to go, and the rally has been entirely on him," said Mark Grant, managing director at Southwest Securities in Fort Lauderdale.
As he speaks to Congress, Grant added, "Bernanke will stay the course and calm markets as much as he can."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 105.69 points, or 0.68 percent, at 15,576.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 10.65 points, or 0.63 percent, at 1,691.56. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 11.65 points, or 0.32 percent, at 3,621.65.
U.S. stocks were also supported by strong quarterly reports from IBM(IBM.N) and Morgan Stanley(MS.N), though shares of Intel Corp(INTC.O) were sold following its results. A jump in regional factory activity also boosted sentiment.
The MSCI International ACWI Price Index rose 0.5 percent.
European equities rose 0.8 percent, outperforming U.S. markets as the broad STOXX Europe 600 broke above a resistance level.
The dollar rose 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies while the euro was down 0.3 percent. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 7/32, with the yield at 2.5171 percent.
Market participants awaited a meeting in Moscow of Group of 20 finance ministers for signs of an orchestrated approach to the end of U.S. money-printing, which could help defuse volatility in global markets.
The G20, which meets on Friday and Saturday, includes many of the developing countries that have been at the sharp end of the dollar's surge since Bernanke first signalled in May the Fed would roll back its bond buying.
Asset returns in 2013: link.reuters.com/dub25t
Euro zone debt crisis r.reuters.com/hyb65p
Currencies v dollar in 2013 link.reuters.com/tak27s
With no surprises expected from Bernanke during his congressional testimony, currency market were starting to focus on Sunday's Upper House elections in Japan, which are expected to strengthen the hand of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his radical stimulus strategy.
'Abenomics', as Abe's $1.4-trillion plan is known, has caused a 14-percent drop in the yen this year.
Ian Stannard, head of European FX strategy at Morgan Stanley in London, said he expected a further retreat once the Fed firms up its support-withdrawal plans.
"The market is of the view the Abe administration will come out of this very well, so post-election it will be an interesting time because we could see the rhetoric around the reform plans picking up," Stannard said.
"If this is the case, we will start to see the yen coming under pressure again."
In debt markets, benchmark German Bunds edged 0.2 percent higher, hitting a five-week high. <GVD/EUR>
An impending no-confidence vote against Portugal's ruling coalition has turned the focus to peripheral euro zone debt.
The motion proposed by a minor party is seen as likely to fail but markets will be on the lookout for any signals sent by the three main parties, which are holding talks on a broad deal to keep the country's bailout program on track. <GVD/EUR>
Spain and France both saw smooth bond auctions on Thursday despite a tougher backdrop, with Spain's prime minister fighting a corruption scandal and France having just lost its last triple-A sovereign credit rating from a major ratings agency.
Commodities, meanwhile, were mixed, with Brent oil flat but U.S. crude futures jumping 1.4 percent as U.S. stockpiles fell for a third straight week. Copper rose 0.2 percent and gold rose 0.7 percent.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish)
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