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European Shares Firm as Dollar Holds Yellen Boost

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European stocks and the dollar were firm in the wake of Janet Yellen saying the American economy is strong enough to warrant higher interest rates. Japanese equities climbed the most in two weeks as the yen extended losses.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index edged higher, while U.S. futures were little changed after the underlying gauge rose Wednesday. The Bloomberg Dollar Index held on to gains after Yellen said the economy is close to the central bank’s objectives and she’s confident it will continue to improve. Japan’s Topix index rose as the yen extended Wednesday’s loss, while Asian shares elsewhere were mixed. Oil resumed gains after the biggest drop in more than a week.

Attention was diverted away from politics as investors focused on Yellen’s faith in the economic recovery and data showing a pickup in inflation in the U.S., the U.K. and the euro zone. Her comments came a day after concerns about Trump’s policies and the implications of Brexit drove investors toward haven assets. That trend to investments perceived as safer eased ahead of Trump’s inauguration on Friday, with stocks having made little headway this week.

“The tone of Yellen’s remarks appears to have gotten stronger, spurring expectations for a March rate hike,” said Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. in Tokyo. “The yen is back on its weakening trend and investors are likely to restore their interest in exporters” in Japan, he said.

Stocks

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was up 0.1 percent at 8:28 a.m. in London. Futures on the S&P 500 Index were little changed after the underlying gauge rose 0.2 percent Wednesday.

Japan’s Topix Index and the Nikkei 225 both rose 0.9 percent. Toshiba Corp. shares tumbled after a report that the loss in its nuclear business may exceed the maximum the company had flagged to lenders. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent.

The Shanghai Composite fell 0.4 percent, with energy and mining companies leading declines. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng decreased 0.2 percent.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was steady after surging 1.1 percent Wednesday, the most in a month.

The pound rose 0.4 percent to 1.2308 and the euro was up 0.2 percent.

South Africa’s rand strengthened 0.4 percent after falling 1.2 percent Wednesday, the most since Jan. 6.

The yen slid 0.2 percent to 114.84 per dollar, extending Wednesday’s 1.8 percent slump after a seven-day rally.

The South Korean won dropped 0.9 percent following reports North Korea may be planning to launch an inter-continental ballistic missile.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 1.3 percent, paring its 2.7 percent slump Wednesday.

Gold lost 0.3 percent. It has fallen over the past two sessions, snapping a seven-day winning streak that was the longest since November.

Bonds

Yields on 10-year Treasuries were steady at 2.43 percent.

10-year Australian government bond yields climbed 8 basis points.

Source: Bloomberg