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Stocks Rise, Yen Falls as Peaceful Crimea Vote Boosts Risk Appetite

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 17, 2014.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 17, 2014.
Reuters
— World stocks rose from a one-month low on Monday while the yen and the prices of U.S. Treasuries fell after Sunday's referendum in Crimea passed without major violence, reducing demand for safe-haven assets.

The yen extended losses after U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for Russia's military incursion into Crimea, including two top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The European Union earlier had also imposed sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine.

Wall Street opened sharply higher on Monday, up more than 1 percent, rebounding from a steep decline in the previous week as concerns eased over the situation in Crimea, even as the region voted to join Russia.

“This is a classic example of too much fear and anxiety having been in the market. Last week's decline more than discounted any bad news that could be reasonably expected to come out,” said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

“I don't think anyone believes that this could escalate into a shooting war or the U.S. committing troops.”

The geopolitical tension weighed on equities last week, with the S&P 500 suffering its biggest weekly loss in seven and the CBOE Volatility index jumping to its highest since early February on Friday.

World stocks also rebounded sharply from an one-month low as risky assets bounced. The MSCI world equity index , which tracks shares in 45 countries, rose 0.8 percent on the day, having hit a one-month low on Friday.

The euro, which had come under pressure after data showing euro zone consumer inflation dropped back in February to the level that triggered a surprise interest rate cut in November, recovered losses to hit session highs against the dollar.

Investors said much of the Ukraine-related selling in equities happened in the run up to Sunday's vote.

European stocks rose 1 percent and the broader Euro STOXX 600 both rose around 1.1 percent. Emerging stocks added 0.5 percent.

Fed in focus

In the latest economic data, the New York Fed's “Empire State” gage of New York manufacturing rose in March, helped by increases in new orders and inventories, though the rise was less than forecast. Separately, industrial output rose 0.6 percent in February, a far bigger rise than had been expected.

“The data gives us another kick up, since it is another sign that we're recovering from recent weather issues,” said Selkin, who helps oversee about $3 billion in assets.

With the Crimea vote out of the way, investors are now focusing on this week's Fed policy meeting, at which the central bank is expected to continue to reduce the size of its bond purchase program but alter its forward guidance.

“They are going to move away from thresholds on specific economic indicators and take a more wholistic approach that depends on subjective evaluation of a broad array of economic indicators. They are trying to move back to a more normal approach to policy,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies in New York.

The Fed previously said that it would not raise interest rates until joblessness fell to at least 6.5 percent, a pledge that policymakers thought would hold until at least mid-2015. But that rate hit a five-year low of 6.6 percent in January, before rising to 6.7 percent in February.

Benchmark 10-year notes fell 8/32 in price on Monday to yield 2.67 percent, in the middle of a two-month long range that has kept yields between 2.57 percent and 2.82 percent.

U.S. crude oil rose further on Monday, gaining for a third session in a row. U.S. crude oil fell 0.4 percent to $98.52 a barrel.

The dollar was up 0.45 percent at 101.78 yen, still within sight of a two-week low of 101.205 yen struck on Friday and compared to a 1-1/2-month high of 103.77 yen hit on March 7.

The euro hit session highs versus the dollar, up 0.2 percent at 1.3938.

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