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Shares gain after Bernanke comments

The Chairman of the US Federal Reserve says the end of stimulus may come later than expected.

The Chairman of the US Federal Reserve says the end of stimulus may come later than expected. Picture: Supplied

NEW YORK - Stock markets around the world rose on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the timeline for the US central bank ending its stimulus program this year was not set in stone.

European shares rebounded from early weakness that came after minutes from a Bank of England (BoE) meeting showed all policymakers voted against extending the bank's bond purchase program, which, like the Fed's, has been widely credited with boosting equity gains this year.

The Fed recently said it would begin scaling back its accommodative policies later this year if economic growth meets its targets. While Bernanke reiterated in testimony to Congress on Wednesday that was still the case, he noted that asset purchases "are by no means on a pre-set course."

In a question-and-answer session with the House Financial Services Committee, Bernanke said the Fed's intention "is to keep monetary policy highly accommodative for the foreseeable future" because of high unemployment and below-target inflation.

The US dollar index rose 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies, while the euro fell 0.2 percent. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was up 10/32, with the yield at 2.4944 percent.

Yields on the 10-year have jumped since May, when Bernanke hinted the Fed would slow its bond purchase program this year.

"Nothing he said drastically changes the game, but markets have become more comfortable with Fed policy," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York, adding the rise in interest rates could be enough to push the Fed to extend its stimulus.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 7.41 points, or 0.05 percent, at 15,459.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.24 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,681.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 9.93 points, or 0.28 percent, at 3,608.43.

The MSCI International ACWI Price Index rose 0.4 percent.

US markets were also supported by Bank of America, which rose 3.1 percent to $14.35 after posting a steep jump in profits.

Yahoo Inc. and St Jude Medical also rallied after results, with Yahoo the S&P's top percentage gainer, up 8.9 percent.

Analysts expect S&P 500 company earnings to have grown 3 percent in the second quarter, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to data from Thomson Reuters. Of the 36 S&P components that reported results through Tuesday morning, 63.9 percent beat analysts' expectations and 55.6 percent surpassed revenue estimates.

Other S&P 500 companies scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday include American Express Co., eBay Inc., IBM and Intel Corp.

European shares recovered from the surprise news that there were no calls for new UK stimulus at Mark Carney's first meeting in charge at the Bank of England.

Carney and the bank's other eight policymakers voted unanimously against more bond purchases, setting aside their differences ahead of a soon-to-be-released review on giving guidance about future interest rates.

"It's quite a surprise that nobody voted for more (BoE stimulus)," said Deutsche Bank economist George Buckley, referring to bond buying known as quantitative easing.

"Now the question is, if they don't do anything on forward guidance, do they then go back to reverting to QE? I suspect not because the data has shown signs of recovering."

European shares rose 0.6 percent while German Bunds rose 0.1 percent to 143.85.