Fed lifts stocks, dollar; euro tests 1999 starting point

Thu Jan 8, 2015 9:26am EST
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By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar hit a nine-year high and stocks worldwide headed for their first back-to-back rise of the year on Thursday, bolstered by Federal Reserve confidence in the U.S. economy and hopes of aggressive new stimulus in Europe.

Wall Street was expected to start the day on the front foot, with future's markets pointing to gains of 0.9-1.0 percent for the S&P 500 ESc1 and Dow Jones Industrial 1YMc1 after stocks snapped a five-day fall the previous session.

Steadier oil prices also encouraged risk appetite and helped nudge U.S. and German government bond yields off recent lows but more soft German data and the dollar's upward march left the euro within a whisker of its 1999 starting point.

Expectations for more ECB stimulus this month were reinforced by data on Wednesday showing euro zone consumer prices fell in December for the first time since 2009. Minutes of a Fed meeting released the same day supported the view it will raise rates this year.

It would be the Fed's first hike in almost a decade, putting it in sharp contrast with other major economies that are still struggling for growth.

The dollar, measured against six other top currencies .DXY hit its highest since December 2005. The euro slid to $1.1760, not far from the level where it first traded in 1999, $1.1747.

As well as ECB money-printing bets, the euro was also being forced down by jitters about Greece leaving the currency union, said Ian Stannard, head of European FX Strategy at Morgan Stanley.

"Irrevocability is central to the euro," Stannard said. "If that is called into question it changes the nature of the euro and that is now at the heart of the debate."   Continued...

A customer uses the nozzle of a petrol pump at a gas station near Prague August 23, 2012.  REUTERS/David W Cerny