Stock markets start week with solid gains

New Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell will speak before a key finance committee this week, with traders looking for clues about his monetary policy plans

Global stock markets rose solidly on Monday at the start of an event-packed trading week.

The advances helped take another bite out of the big losses suffered at the start of February, which were sparked by concerns that rising US inflation could lead to faster-than-expected interest rate rises in the world's biggest economy.

Those worries were eased somewhat Friday when the Federal Reserve, in its semi-annual report to Congress, said inflation remains subdued globally and it expects to raise borrowing costs three times this year -- tempering speculation of four increases.

However, analysts warn that equity valuations remain elevated and volatility could still return.

After Tokyo's main stocks index closed up more than one percent, Europe's leading indices pushed higher albeit with lesser gains.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index finished the day with a gain of 0.6 percent.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 added 0.4 percent and in Paris the CAC 40 rose 0.5 percent.

"The recovery in European equity markets is still being played out. Investors are becoming more content to buy back into the market, and the memory of the sharp sell-off at the start of the month is continuing to fade," said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

"Dealers are coming around to the idea that the positive market momentum is here to stay," he added.

Wall Street also pushed higher, with the Dow up nearly 1.0 percent in midday trading, despite data showing sales of single-family houses falling 7.8 percent last month, its second monthly drop in a row.

The bright start of the week for equities follows a strong finish on Friday for all three main Wall Street indices, with the Dow up 1.4 percent, S&P 500 winning 1.6 percent and Nasdaq jumping 1.8 percent.

Monday's positivity meanwhile kicks off a busy week, with the release of key US data including economic growth, jobs creation and wages.

Also, new Fed boss Jerome Powell will speak before key finance committees on Tuesday and Thursday. Markets will pore over his comments for clues about plans for monetary policy -- though many predict he will stick to the path of his predecessor Janet Yellen.

In foreign exchange, the dollar wobbled after climbing Friday on the back of the Fed comments.

Gains by the euro were being curbed by uncertainty ahead of weekend elections in Italy, one of the eurozone's biggest economies.

Oil prices continued pushing higher following gains at the end of last week on a surprise drop in US stockpiles and as a key terminal in major producer Libya suffered disruption from protests.

Analysts said comments from Saudi Arabia that it would produce less than agreed production levels in the first three months of this year helped support prices.

- Key figures around 1630 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,289.58 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 12,527.04 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.5 percent at 5,344.26 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.8 percent at 3,468.35

New York - DOW: UP 1.0 percent at 25,551.48

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 22,153.63 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.74 percent at 31,498.60 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,329.57 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2312 from $1.2295 at 2130 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3958 from $1.3968

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.90 yen from 106.83 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 25 cents at $63.94 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP cents at $63.94

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