World stock markets mostly higher as investors look to Yellen's debut comments as Fed chief

The Associated Press

Men walk past an electronic stock indicator showing charts of Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 which gained 255.93 points, or 1.77 percent, and closed at 14,718.34 in Tokyo Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors looked ahead to Janet Yellen's first comments before Congress as the new Federal Reserve chairwoman. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

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By PAN PYLAS, AP Business Writer

LONDON (AP) — Financial markets were fairly subdued Monday as investors looked ahead to Janet Yellen's first comments before Congress as the new chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Yellen, who was confirmed last week, was to speak before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday. Traders will be particularly interested to hear anything she says about the withdrawal of the Fed's monetary stimulus.

The U.S. central bank has embarked on a policy to reduce the stimulus, but recent jobs data has suggested that the U.S. economic recovery may not be as healthy as was once thought. The stimulus has helped shore up a number of financial assets over the past few years, particularly stocks.

"Her speech will be closely examined for clues as to whether the Fed is prepared to pause its tapering process or whether the barriers to doing so are currently considered to be too high," said Jane Foley, an analyst at Rabobank International.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.4 percent at 6,586 while Germany's DAX was flat at 9,305. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 percent higher at 4,244.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1 percent at 15,774 while the broader S&P 500 index was steady at 1,796.

Stocks around the world have settled down of late despite last Friday's slightly worse-than-expected U.S. payrolls data for January. In the weeks before that, concern over emerging economies had let to a broad-based retreat.

"After the recent turmoil in financial markets, last week ended on a relatively calm note," said Kathleen Brooks, an analyst at Forex.com.

Yellen's comments could also have a big bearing on the dollar's near-term fortunes. Like stocks, the dollar has been trading in a fairly narrow range with the euro 0.2 percent higher at $1.3636 and the U.S. currency down 0.3 percent at 103.17 yen.

Earlier in Asia, China's Shanghai Composite Index added 2 percent to 2,086.18, its highest close in a month. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 1.8 percent at 14,718.34. However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 0.4 percent to 21,561.31.

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