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Global stocks push higher after Fed, Dutch election results

Posted March 16

— Global stocks pushed higher Thursday in the wake of relatively dovish comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve that accompanied another rate hike and amid relief over the Dutch election result.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 0.6 percent at 12,082 while France's CAC-40 rose 0.5 percent to 5,009. London's FTSE 100 gained 0.6 percent to 7,410. Wall Street was poised for modest gains at the open with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

U.S. RATE HIKE: The Fed raised short-term interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, its third such move since late 2015. The move was widely expected. The central bank stressed that it plans to move gradually and stuck to its projection that it will raise rates a total of three times this year. That cooled speculation among some investors that the Fed could move more aggressively.

DUTCH ELECTIONS: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party won a parliamentary election victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders in the year's first test for populism in Europe. Following Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's election as U.S. president, "the Netherlands said, 'Whoa!' to the wrong kind of populism," said Rutte. Wilders campaigned on pledges to close borders to migrants from Muslim nations, close mosques, ban the Quran and take the Netherlands out of the EU.

ANALYST TAKE: "Global equities are handsomely positive, risk appetite revived by a Fed update that was less hawkish than it could have been, further policy tightening likely gradual," said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets. "Relief from the Dutch election result is also supporting sentiment."

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.1 percent to 19,590.14 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 3,268.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 2.1 percent to 24,288.28 and Seoul's Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 2,150.08. India's Sensex climbed 0.5 percent to 29,541.64 and benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore also rose. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,785.80.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The Fed took off as expected but left the market with a more 'gradual' view with regards to future rate hikes," said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. "Comments by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen in her press conference had been perceived as dovish. The Fed chair had reiterated that the committee expects a 'gradual increase' in rates on the back of evolving economic conditions and monetary policy 'remains accommodative' at present."

CHINA FOLLOWS THE FED: China's central bank raised a short-term interest rate on lending to banks but left its benchmark rate unchanged following the U.S. increase. The People's Bank of China hiked the rate for its six-month and one-year medium-term lending facility and open-market repurchase operations by 0.1 percent. The benchmark one-year commercial lending rate was unchanged. The bank cited the U.S. Federal Reserve's Wednesday rate hike and improved Chinese economic conditions.

HONG KONG FOLLOWS THE FED TOO: Hong Kong's central bank copied the Fed by raising its benchmark lending rate by one-quarter point to 1.25 percent. The Hong Kong currency is pegged to the dollar, which means the Hong Kong Monetary Authority copies U.S. monetary policy.

JAPAN STANDS PAT: Japan's central bank held monetary policy steady as the Fed and Europe's central bank move toward tightening. The Bank of left its benchmark lending rate unchanged at minus 0.1 percent and said it would work toward a 2 percent inflation rate target. The central bank is buying about 80 trillion yen ($700 billion) a year of Japanese government bonds to inject cash into the economy. The BOJ said the world's third-largest economy was on a "moderate recovery trend."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 35 cents to $49.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 34 cents to $52.15.

CURRENCY: The euro fell 0.1 percent to $1.0723 while the dollar was steady at 113.33 yen.

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