July 21, 2020 / 4:05 PM / 23 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, euro rally after EU agrees to recovery fund

(New throughout, updates prices, market activity and comments to U.S. market open, adds second byline and dateline)

* EU seals recovery fund plan after five days of talks

* Euro climbs to 17-month high, DAX turns positive for year

* Virus vaccine trial results add to bullish mood

* Investors expect U.S. stimulus of more than $1 trillion

* Gold shines at 9-year high

* World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - World shares rallied to their highest since February and the euro hit its strongest in 17 months on Tuesday after European Union leaders sealed a 750 billion-euro ($857 billion) recovery fund to revive regional economies ravaged by the coronavirus.

The agreement after five days of haggling drove down the risk premium on European assets and pushed gold to $1,840.01 an ounce, the highest in almost nine years. The precious metal got an extra boost from a weaker dollar and expectations of more U.S. stimulus.

The willingness to raise billions of euros in capital markets on behalf of all 27 EU states was an unprecedented act of solidarity in almost seven decades of European integration.

EU summit chairman Charles Michel presented the final plan as a "pivotal" moment to dispel doubts about the bloc's future.

The risk of a European break-up receded further and regional growth should be supported over the medium term by the recovery fund, Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, told investors.

Germany's DAX index entered positive territory for the year and the euro gained 0.42% to $1.1492 after briefly touching $1.1494, its highest since late January 2019.

Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.29% and MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets advanced 0.88% to highs last seen in February, when markets crashed on coronavirus fears.

"It's a significant step towards a more integrated and united Europe, which should boost the region's appeal to global investors and facilitate its re-rating," said Barclays' head of European equity strategy Emmanuel Cau.

Hopes that vaccines might be ready by the end of the year also supported the risk-on sentiment and helped push Italian government bond yields to their lowest since early March. Italy will be a main beneficiary of the fund, as will Spain, Greece, Portugal, Poland and Hungary, whose government bonds also rallied.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2% and the S&P 500 added 0.61% after regaining positive territory Monday for the year for the first time since June 8. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.36%.

Asian shares overnight followed a tech-led rally on Wall Street that pushed the Nasdaq to its seventh closing high this month. The Sydney stock market clocked its best day in over a month with a 2.6% jump.

SHOT IN THE ARM

The main all-world equity indexes now have rebounded 45% off their March lows, boosted mainly by the record levels of stimulus announced by governments and central banks to cushion the impact of COVID-19 and its ensuing lockdowns.

Oil prices rose more than 3%, with Brent crude futures up $1.31 to $44.59 a barrel. U.S. crude futures gained $1.28 to $42.09 a barrel.

Gold, which tends to benefit from massive stimulus as the metal is seen as a hedge against rising prices and currency debasement, rose to an almost nine-year high. Silver breached $20 for the first time since September 2016.

Spot gold prices rose $23.4542 to $1,838.85 an ounce.

"What's really driving the gold market is stimulus and we are going to get more of it. It's the eye candy that's driving sentiment right now," said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at financial services firm AxiCorp.

With the EU recovery plan sealed, investors will now focus on possible further U.S. measures after the $3 trillion injected earlier this year.

Advisers to President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats were set to discuss the next steps on Tuesday, with congressional Republicans saying they were working on a $1 trillion relief bill.

($1 = 0.8747 euros)

Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo, Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong and Brijesh Patel in Bangalore; editing by Susan Fenton, Larry King, Jane Merriman and David Gregorio

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