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Stocks fade from record highs, dollar falls on Fed minutes

NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Global stocks pulled back from record highs on Wednesday, while the dollar declined after minutes from the US Federal Reserve offered little to support the notion of an interest rate increase in March.

The perceived less hawkish tone of the Fed’s record of the January 31-February 1 policy meeting helped lift gold and US bonds from negative territory. Oil futures ended lower on renewed concerns about rising U.S. inventories.

Many Fed policymakers said it may be appropriate to raise interest rates again "fairly soon" should jobs and inflation data come in line with expectations. But the minutes also showed uncertainty because of a lack of clarity on the new Trump administration’s economic program.

"These minutes reflect this mindset of a moderate path. They don’t see a smoking gun for them to speed up. There’s way too much uncertainty about the content and timing on fiscal stimulus and their impact," said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income in Newark, New Jersey.

US President Donald Trump’s pledge of tax cuts, looser regulation and more infrastructure spending – together with relatively strong earnings seasons in Europe and the United States and upbeat economic data – have fueled a stock rally this year.

MSCI’s main index of global stocks, which tracks share prices across 46 countries, hit a second successive record high at 446.60. It was last at 446.04.

On Wall Street, the Dow ended up 32.6 points, or 0.16 percent, at 20,775.6, the S&P 500 closed down 2.56 points, or 0.11 percent, at 2,362.82 and the Nasdaq Composite finished down 5.32 points, or 0.09 percent, to 5,860.63.

The Dow reached its ninth straight all-time closing high.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up 0.06 percent at 1,472.79 after earlier reaching its highest since December 2015.

As U.S. stock prices treaded water after the Fed minutes, the dollar sank as traders stuck to their view the probability on a U.S. rate increase in March was low.

The dollar was down 0.2 percent at 101.20.





Concerns about sweeping changes from major elections across Europe helped push the gap between short-dated U.S. and German government bond yields to its widest in nearly 17 years.

U.S. and German bond yields pared some losses after centrist candidate Francois Bayrou backed independent candidate Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential race in a bid to bolster Macron’s chances of defeating anti-EU, anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen.

German two-year yields hit a record low of minus 0.919 percent before bouncing to minus 0.892 percent. U.S. two-year yield hit 1.208 percent before retracing to 1.224 percent, Reuters data showed.

In the oil market, Brent crude settled down 82 cents or 1.45 percent at $55.84 a barrel, while U.S. crude settled 74 cents or 1.36 percent lower at $53.59.

Spot gold prices rose $2.83 to $1,238.73 an ounce, erasing losses following the release of the Fed minutes.

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