* Global stocks gauge little changed, but near record high
* Wall Street slightly lower, Amgen weighs
* Oil prices firm modestly, set for weekly gain
* Focus turning to global finance chiefs meeting
(Updates with open of U.S. market, changes byline, dateline
By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, March 17 A global stock market index
hovered near record highs on Friday, wrapping up a week when
many of the world's biggest economies either raised interest
rates or signaled they might do so, underlining confidence about
economic growth and inflation.
The U.S. dollar fell, continuing its slide in the wake of
the Federal Reserve's decision on Wednesday to boost interest
rates but maintain a gradual pace of hikes this year.
Investors were also watching a meeting of world finance
chiefs in Germany beginning on Friday, where topics such as
economic reform, protectionism and exchange rates are expected
to be on the agenda.
MSCI's all-country world stock index was
little changed on the day but traded near an all-time high.
The Fed raised rates for the second time in three months on
Wednesday, while China followed with its own hike on Thursday,
and then Britain and a European Central Bank policymaker hinted
at higher rates.
"It looks like the rest of the central banks may be thinking
about tightening up a little bit," said Bucky Hellwig, senior
vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
"It confirms that growth is improving both domestically and
globally, which is what everyone has been looking for...They
wouldn’t be doing that if their economies still needed
aggressive monetary stimulus."
Wall Street's main indexes fell slightly in morning trading.
Amgen shares tumbled 6.7 percent after data on the
biotechnology company's cholesterol drug came in at the low end
of investor expectations.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.94 points, or
0.03 percent, to 20,927.61, the S&P 500 lost 1.64 points,
or 0.07 percent, to 2,379.74 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 6.50 points, or 0.11 percent, to 5,894.26.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.1
percent. European bank stocks touched their highest
point in more than a year after an European Central Bank
policymaker kindled talk of a possible rate hike.
The ECB will decide later whether to raise interest rates
before or after ending its bond purchase program, policymaker
Ewald Nowotny told a newspaper.
The dollar edged 0.1 percent lower to a fresh five-week low
against a basket of currencies. The greenback remained
under pressure for a third straight session after the Fed
quashed hopes for a further bull run in the currency by keeping
a gradual pace to its monetary tightening policy.
"At the moment, the dollar remains in correction mode," said
Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com in London.
Data on Friday showed a steadily improving U.S. economy,
with manufacturing output rising for a sixth straight month in
February and preliminary consumer confidence for the month of
March increasing as well.
U.S. Treasury yields edged lower after data showing low
inflation in March suggested that the Fed could potentially
lower its forecasts for interest rate increases this year.
Prices for benchmark 10-year Treasuries gained
8/32 to yield 2.497 percent, from 2.524 percent late on
Oil prices firmed slightly and looked set to finish the week
with a modest gain after losing almost 10 percent last week.
Brent crude was up 0.1 percent at $51.79 a barrel.
U.S. light crude rose 0.1 percent to $48.81 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Sam
Forgione in New York, John Geddie in London; Editing by