World stocks reach milestones, dollar gains

By David Gaffen and Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World equity markets tested record highs on Friday on hopes of more stimulus from top central banks, while the dollar strengthened on favourable government debt yields compared to those of most other developed countries.

Wall Street scored solid gains after U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co. (GE.N) said it plans to sell assets and buy back up to $ 50 billion of its stock. This propelled GE shares to their highest since September 2008, ending up 10.8 percent at $ 28.51 in heavy volume. [.N]

Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei index rose above 20,000 points for the first time in 15 years while top European shares advanced to their highest since 2000. [.T] [.EU]

Oil prices rose on lowered expectations of an Iran nuclear deal that would allow more Iranian oil into the market. [O/R]

Gold rose on the day but snapped a three-week winning streak on a stronger dollar. [GOL/]

“We are in a honeymoon period for risk assets, and will be for another quarter,” said Sandra Crowl, an investment committee member at Paris-based asset managers Carmignac Gestion.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) closed up 98.92 points, or 0.55 percent, to 18,057.65, the S&P 500 (.SPX) ended up 10.88 points, or 0.52 percent, to 2,102.06 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) finished 21.41 points, or 0.43 percent, higher at 4,995.98. [.N]

Tokyo’s Nikkei (.N225) closed down 0.2 percent after breaching the 20,000-point mark.

Buoyed by gains in Asia and the renewed drop in the euro, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 share index (.FTEU3) reached a 15-year high of over 1,640 as its ninth week of rises in the last 10 took it to its highest since 2000. Germany’s DAX (.GDAXI) also scored a record high.

The MSCI world equity index , which tracks shares in 45 nations, rose 0.4 percent to 435.72, a shade below its record high.

Subdued Chinese inflation readings fuelled talk of additional stimulus from Beijing, while another slip in U.S. import prices slipped in March, supporting the case for the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising interest rates until the third quarter.

Ten-year U.S. Treasuries rose 1/32 in price, dropping the yield to 1.953 percent, reducing its weekly rise to 11 basis points, the biggest in five weeks. [US/]

The dollar was heading for its best week since 2011 against a basket of other top currencies as the euro (EUR=) limped to its worst since 2011 and sterling (GBP=) slumped to a five-year low after poor U.K. industrial production data. [FRX/]

An index (.DXY) that measures the greenback against the euro, yen and other major currencies was up 0.2 percent at 99.361, marking a weekly increase of 2.92 percent.

In the oil market, U.S. oil futures (CLc1) settled up 1.67 percent at $ 51.64 a barrel while Brent crude (LCOc1) settled up 2.30 percent at $ 57.87.

Spot gold (XAU=) rose 1.13 percent to $ 1,207.91 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Marc Jones and John Geddie in London and Lisa Twaronite in Tokyo; Editing by Tom Heneghan and James Dalgleish)

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