Global stocks gain after Fed chief hints rate rises may slow

Most global stock markets rose Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggested the pace of U.S. interest rate increases might slow.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, London's FTSE 100 advanced 0.3 percent to 7,025 and France's CAC 40 gained 0.4 percent to 5,000. Germany's DAX was flat at 11,293. On Wall Street, futures for the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were both down by 0.3 percent after the indexes posting strong gains the day before.

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 percent to 22,262.50 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.6 percent to 5,758.40. Seoul's Kospi advanced 0.3 percent to 2,114.10 and India's Sensex gained 1.1 percent to 36,124.14. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.3 percent to 2,567.44 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.9 percent to 26,451.03. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta advanced.

FED WATCH: In a speech in New York, Powell said rates are close to neutral, the level at which they neither hold back growth nor aid it. Powell appeared to suggest the Fed might pause its interest rate increases next year to assess the effects. That relieved investors who feel the 9-year-old bull market could come to an end if rates rise too fast. The Fed cut rates to zero in 2008 during the global financial crisis but has raised them since the end of 2015 and is expected to announce another increase next month. Powell's comments pushed U.S. stocks rocketed to their biggest gain in eight months.

CHINA-US TRADE: Three days before President Donald Trump is due to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, the chief American trade envoy criticized Beijing's import taxes on American-made cars. Beijing cut auto import duties this year to 15 percent but added a 25 percent penalty on those from the United States in response to Trump's imposition of similar charges on Chinese goods in dispute over technology policy. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Chinese duties on American-made cars are "especially egregious," and said he would "examine all available tools" to equalize charges.

ANALYST'S COMMENT: The mix of Powell's and Lighthizer's comments indicates "it's far too early to suggest that a Santa Claus rally is in the cards," said Stephen Innes of currency trader OANDA in a report. Lighthizer's statement reflected Washington's "great ideological divide," said Innes. Still, "this dovish Fed lean is a fantastic cure-all for what ails stock markets sentiment."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 39 cents to $49.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.27 on Wednesday to close at $50.29. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 73 cents to $58.03 in London. The contract lost $1.31 the previous session to close at $59.09.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 113.38 yen from Thursday's 113.67 yen. The euro gained to $1.1373 from $1.1368.