April 18, 2018 / 7:04 PM / 3 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks near four-week highs, supported by corporate earnings

* Oil up over 2.5 pct, breaks above $73 as supply concerns build

* Dollar steady as solid earnings support U.S. stocks (Adds oil price settlement; updates market action; changes byline)

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - World equity markets approached a four-week high on Wednesday as investors' appetite for riskier assets was boosted by upbeat earnings from companies in Europe and the United States.

The U.S. dollar clung to gains amid fading concerns over a global trade war, while a reported decline in U.S. crude inventories and the possibility of supply disruptions pushed oil prices higher.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.55 percent, near its highest since March 21.

The index was supported by a higher open on Wall Street, following the latest batch of earnings. Morgan Stanley shares rose 3 percent after the bank reported a 40 percent jump in quarterly profit, driven by its trading business.

"Earnings continue to progress on the positive side and commodities are also on the rise; that should give the markets another boost," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Stocks briefly dipped but quickly recovered after a Federal Reserve report saying that robust business borrowing, rising consumer spending and tight labor markets indicate the U.S. economy remains on track for continued growth, with trade war risks the one big outlier.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.5 points, or 0.03 percent, to 24,779.13, the S&P 500 gained 7.52 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,713.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 29.66 points, or 0.41 percent, to 7,310.76.

Investors appeared to be focusing on fundamentals after weeks dominated by geopolitical tensions.

"The safety trade that we have experienced seems to have ended," said Cardillo.

Shares of International Business Machines Corp tumbled nearly 7.4 percent after its profit margins fell short of Wall Street expectations.

European shares firmed amid strong company results, including those from French food group Danone, private healthcare provider Mediclinic and Dutch oil and chemical storage company Vopak.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.30 percent.

The U.S. dollar held steady versus a basket of major currencies as solid company results and fading concerns about a trade war helped keep a lid on safe-haven demand for the greenback.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, rose 0.09 percent.

Trading across U.S. government bond maturities was range-bound on Wednesday, with yields little changed in spite of gains in the equity market in the last few sessions.

"Generally, the bond market seems to be under-reacting to both the sell-off and the rally," said Subadra Rajappa, head of U.S. rates strategy at Societe Generale in New York.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.858 percent, from 2.814 percent on Tuesday.

Oil extended gains, rising more than 2 percent on a reported decline in U.S. crude inventories and after sources signaled top exporter Saudi Arabia wants to see the crude price closer to $100 a barrel.

U.S. crude oil futures settled at $68.47 per barrel, up $1.95 or 2.93 percent. Brent futures settled at $73.48, up $1.90, or 2.65 percent.

Additional reporting by Kate Duguid, Sinead Carew, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in NEW YORK, Sruthi Shankar in BENGALURU; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler

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