Dollar eases, stocks edge higher ahead of Yellen

February 10, 2014

San Francisco  (Feb 10)  The dollar eased and global equity markets rose slightly on Monday as investors awaited the first congressional testimony of new Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen after a weak labor market report for January left investors skittish.

U.S. stocks mostly rose, following the benchmark S&P500's best two-day advance in four months late last week, while a measure of global equity activity and a broad European stock index rose slightly.

The dollar held steady against major currencies as traders waited to hear the economic and policy views of Yellen, who is viewed as an architect of the U.S. central bank's current ultra-loose monetary policy.

Yellen appears before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Tuesday and the Democrat-controlled Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

U.S. lawmakers, some of whom are hostile to the central bank, will want to know how committed Yellen is to winding down the Fed's support for the economy.

"It doesn't provide a lot of incentive to move the dollar out of its current trading range," said Bob Lynch, head of G10 FX strategy at HSBC Bank USA in New York.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, last traded down 0.07 percent at 80.637, and the greenback was mildly weaker versus the yen, at 102.17 yen, down 0.16 percent on the day.

The euro rose 0.06 percent against the dollar at $1.3641.

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday that non-farm payrolls rose by 113,000 in January, well below the consensus forecast of 185,000. But investors attributed the disappointing data to inclement weather and bid stocks higher.

On Monday, stocks trended higher.

MSCI's all-country equity index, a measure of global equity markets, rose 0.18 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed up 0.08 percent at 1,301.09.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 4.08 points, or 0.03 percent, to 15,790, the S&P 500 gained 1.58 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,798.6, and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.654 points, or 0.45 percent, to 4,144.515.

Yellen is expected to stay the course with slowly winding down, or tapering, the Fed's bond-buying program this year.

The Fed has twice cut its bond purchases by $10 billion a month, to $65 billion a month, as the U.S. economy has improved. The bond buying has largely supported commodity and equity markets.

"The overall sentiment is 'steady as she goes,' said Tariq Zahir, managing member of commodity trading adviser Tyche Capital Advisors in New York. "I don't think there's going to be a taper of the taper."

Benchmark safe-haven bonds, including U.S. Treasuries and German Bunds, maintained tight ranges as investors looked ahead to a string of risk events later this week.

The benchmark U.S. Treasury 10-year note fell 1/32 in price to yield 2.6802 percent in a see-saw session.

Bund futures settled down 18 ticks at 143.65 euros.

Brent crude oil slipped after hitting a five-week high above $109 a barrel.

March Brent crude settled down 94 cents at $108.63 a barrel. U.S. crude rose 18 cents to settle at $100.06, after rising to $100.55, a 2014 high.

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