Stocks gain as rate fears abate; oil rally fades

Futures Now: Oil Rebounds
Futures Now: Oil Rebounds

NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - An index of global stocks on Wednesday climbed to its highest point of the year while the dollar weakened as easing concerns about rising interest rates led investors into riskier assets.

Wall Street pared gains, pressured by retreating oil prices as U.S. crude inventories built up.

SEE ALSO: US private sector adds 200,000 jobs in March

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday the U.S. central bank should proceed cautiously as it looks to raise interest rates, pushing back on a handful of her colleagues who have suggested another move may be just around the corner.

Yellen's comments were echoed on Wednesday by Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, who said there was a high hurdle to raising rates in April, given low inflation.

"You have got the follow through from the Fed. They are taking one of the fears basically off the table at this point in terms of rising interest rates," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

"The market has been basically kind of moving almost in tandem with what has been happening with the dollar. That trade got reinforced yesterday."

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 72.97 points, or 0.41 percent, at 17,706.08, the S&P 500 gained 7.7 points, or 0.37 percent, at 2,062.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 19.86 points, or 0.41 percent, at 4,866.48.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index advanced 1.3 percent.

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MSCI's index of world shares gained 1 percent. The index pulled back from stronger earlier-session gains that had put it in positive territory for 2016.

The dollar had hit its highest level in about two weeks against a basket of major currencies at the start of the week, boosted by a series of hawkish comments from Fed officials. But the greenback receded after Yellen's comments pointed to global risks to the U.S economy.

The dollar fell another 0.2 percent on Wednesday. It is down about 3.7 percent this year and on track to post its biggest quarterly percentage decline in five years. The euro rose 0.3 percent against the dollar on Wednesday.

"(Yellen) seemed very biased towards the dovish side, and the market is taking that as a signal that the Fed is maybe trying to engineer a weaker currency or a more buoyant financial market, or possibly both," said Altana Hard Currency Fund manager Ian Gunner said.

U.S. private employers added 200,000 jobs in March, above economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed.

Buttressed by the weak dollar, which makes commodities denominated in the greenback more attractive to users of other currencies, oil prices gained. But they pulled back as a report showed that U.S. crude stockpiles rose 2.3 million barrels in the last week.

U.S. crude prices were up 0.2 percent at $38.35 a barrel, while benchmark Brent climbed 0.4 percent to $39.31 a barrel.

U.S. Treasury prices fell as Yellen's remarks led to buying of riskier assets and reduced demand for safe-haven bonds, but pared losses after an auction of seven-year notes.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were down 4/32 in price for a yield of 1.825 percent. The 10-year yield hit a four-week low of 1.800 percent on Tuesday. (Additional reporting by Richard Leong and Barani Krishnan in New York, John Geddie and Jemima Kelly in London; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

See photos from the floor of the NYSE March 30:

Originally published