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Markets await testimony from Yellen; dollar likely in focus

Associated Press Associated Press 17/11/2016
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday as a seven-day rally on Wall Street petered out overnight. The U.S. dollar retreated slightly after hitting a 13-year high and oil prices slipped. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) © The Associated Press A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday as a seven-day rally on Wall Street petered out overnight. The U.S. dollar retreated slightly after hitting a 13-year high and oil prices slipped. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

LONDON — Stock markets around the world traded in fairly narrow ranges Thursday ahead of Congressional testimony from Fed Chair Janet Yellen that most traders think will cement expectations over a rate hike next month.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 rose 0.1 percent to 4,504 while Germany's DAX shed 0.1 percent to trade at 10,644. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.3 percent higher at 6,741. U.S. stocks were poised for a steady opening, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

YELLEN FOCUS: Though the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president has complicated the U.S. economic outlook, financial markets still think that a Fed rate hike next month is far more likely than not. What's more interesting to markets is when the ensuing rate hike will be and it's here that Trump's victory could impact. Yellen is due to start addressing lawmakers on the Joint Economic Committee before the opening bell on Wall Street and that could impact on trading. Trump has promised to cut taxes and raise infrastructure spending, measures that could boost economic growth and potentially spur inflation. That's seen a rally in stocks, a sell-off of U.S. bond yields and a concurrent rise in the dollar.

ANALYST TAKE: "With chances of a rate hike now at 94 percent for December, there is a risk that the Fed's leader could spark a bout of dollar weakness if she so much as hints at the possibility that the central bank won't move in December," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. "Thus currencies like the yen and the euro which have fallen hard over the past few days against the US dollar, could be due a decent bounce, with worrying consequences for equity markets in those countries."

DOLLAR: Ahead of her testimony, the dollar was fairly steady. While the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.0725, the dollar was 0.3 percent higher against the Japanese yen at 109.19 yen.

OIL: Energy markets are keeping a close watch on the dollar's reaction to Yellen's testimony. In the run-up to it, benchmark U.S. crude rebounded, rising 67 cents to $46.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 82 cents to $47.45 a barrel in London.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei was flat at 17,862.63 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index eased 0.1 percent to 22,262.88. China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1 percent to 3,208.45 and Australia's S&P/ASX rose 0.2 percent to 5,338.50, while benchmarks in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore gained.

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