World stocks higher as investors await Yellen, Greece
By KELVIN CHAN (AP)
HONG KONG (AP) — World stocks were mostly higher and the dollar strengthened Tuesday as investors awaited remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and the Greek government prepared to unveil reforms aimed at winning final approval for extended rescue loans.
KEEPING SCORE: European markets rose in early trading, with France's CAC-40 up 0.2 percent to 4,866.98 and Germany's DAX practically unchanged at 11,129.30. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 6,913.95. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher, with Dow futures up 0.1 percent to 18,098.00, while broader S&P 500 futures crept up 0.1 percent to 2,107.70.
CENTRAL BANKS: Investors will be listening for any hints from Yellen on the timing of interest rate hikes from the Fed when she delivers her semiannual report to the U.S. Congress, scheduled for Wednesday. Many economists have predicted the central bank will raise interest rates in June. European Central Bank head Mario Draghi also has a speaking engagement after last month announcing a 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) stimulus effort.
THE QUOTE: "Effectively the Fed is moving closer and closer towards the point where they have to either do something or send a signal that their previous optimism no longer holds water and they're not going to do anything," said Michael Every, Rabobank's head of Asia-Pacific financial market research. Investors will be closely examining the remarks by Yellen, who has a blunter speaking style than predecessors Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. "Today will be another test where we get to see just how plainspoken she can be when the markets are anxiously looking at, 'Will they or won't they raise rates within a few months?'"
GREECE: Officials say the country's left-wing government will deliver a list of reforms Tuesday to debt inspectors for final approval of extended rescue loans. Greece and its bailout creditors reached a tentative agreement last week to extend a rescue loan program by four months to avoid the risk of a Greek default and exit from the euro currency. The reforms, to be sent to Brussels and reviewed by the 19 eurozone finance ministers, are expected to include tax evasion curbs, corruption, smuggling and excessive bureaucracy as well as poverty caused by a six-year recession.
ASIA'S DAY: The Nikkei 225 index in Japan advanced 0.7 percent to close at 18,603.48 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4 percent to 1,976.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.4 percent to 24,750.07. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 5,927.00. Markets in mainland China remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 49 cents a barrel to $48.96 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.36 to close at $49.45 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price oil sold on international markets, added 57 cents to $58.31 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 119.31 yen from 118.93 in late trading Monday. The euro slipped to $1.1324 from $1.1336.