Stocks gain; doubts arise on end to Fed purchases

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Benchmark stock indexes around the world edged higher on Friday, while the dollar fell after a US government report on new single-family home sales raised doubts about the timing and extent of cuts to the Federal Reserve's stimulus program.

New home sales dropped 13.4% in July to an annual rate of 394,000 units, well below expectations, the Commerce Department said, dimming what has been a bright spot in the US economic comeback.

Europe's main stock markets were steady to higher but attention remained firmly on Asia after a torrid week that has wiped billions of dollars from emerging markets for the second time in two months.

Yields on US Treasuries traded lower but still near two-year highs, with investors reluctant to break out of recent ranges, given uncertainty around when the Fed might slow its massive bond-buying program. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was up 18/32, its yield at 2.818%.

"This has been a very unique market situation, with the Fed stimulus being such an important component to the market rally. This is uncharted waters for us," said Gordon Charlop, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York. "So regardless of what the move is, the fact you are someplace you haven't been before is cause for uncertainty."

The next Fed monetary policy meeting is set for September 17-18.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.77 points or 0.31%, to 15,010.51, the S&P 500 gained 6.54 points or 0.39%, to 1,663.50 and the Nasdaq Composite added 19.085 points or 0.52%, to 3,657.792.

The biggest risk facing the US economy is a premature policy tightening by the Federal Reserve, Stanford University economist Robert Hall told the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

MSCI's emerging share index had its first gain after six sessions in the red, while selling of India's rupee subsided after the currency's worst week against the dollar in decades.

"Hopefully the worst (of the emerging market selling) may now be over," said Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation at SEB investment management. He added that his firm may soon start "bottom fishing" in Asia.

"It doesn't seem to be a repeat of the 1997 (Asian crisis) situation ... and it seems like people are not so keen on being extremely short anymore, so it might twist around a bit."

The dollar surrendered gains against a basket of currencies after earlier climbing to a three-week peak versus the yen, helped by the rise in US bond yields on expectations the Fed will reduce its asset-buying program next month.

Yields build

This week's market turbulence has been driven by growing evidence that the Fed is ready to start closing the taps on its huge stimulus program, a conviction that is being bolstered by strengthening global data.

Germany confirmed on Friday that its economy grew at a 0.7 percent rate in the second quarter, while Britain revised upward its growth numbers.

Purchasing managers' surveys this week showed better-than-expected growth in the euro zone, a Chinese manufacturing rebound and US manufacturing activity at a five-month high.

Europe's FTSEurofirst 300, rose 0.4% on Friday. A rebound in Asia and Europe helped push MSCI's global share index up 0.8%, although it was not enough to prevent it heading for its third weekly fall.

Emerging market outflows

US Treasury yields tend to set the benchmark for borrowing costs across the globe, so their recent rise - expected to continue as the Fed winds down support - is making it more difficult for indebted countries and firms to pay their bills.

Data from Boston-based fund tracker EPFR Global on Thursday showed $1.3 billion fled emerging debt funds in the week ending Aug. 21, the biggest outflow since mid-July.

Whereas May and June's sharp selloff in emerging markets calmed when the change in direction of US market rates made shorting (betting against) those assets unprofitable, this time that did not happen, meaning the selling could run for longer.

Brent and US crude found early support from disruptions to Libyan exports. Brent crude traded up 1% to $111.01 a barrel, and US crude rose 1.3% to $106.43 a barrel. - August 24, 2013.

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