September 26, 2018 / 3:46 PM / 8 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-China leads world stocks higher ahead of Fed rate decision

* Shanghai shares hit 8-week high, helped by MSCI news

* Fed rate hike expected, another seen likely in December

* Brent crude prices ease off 4-year high but still above $80

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 (Changes byline, dateline to NEW YORK; adds Wall Street open; updates throughout)

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - An advance in Chinese equity markets set a modestly positive tone for world stocks on Wednesday, despite continued trade tensions with the United States, as investors awaited an expected interest rate increase by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The U.S. dollar rose to a one-week high in anticipation of the hike, which would be the eighth since late 2015, while health stocks lifted Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 51.45 points, or 0.19 percent, to 26,543.66, the S&P 500 gained 6.7 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,922.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 25.85 points, or 0.32 percent, to 8,033.32.

Further gains in the U.S. market may be limited in the short term, however, some analysts said.

"We expect U.S. equities will have a harder time holding up into the latter half of this week," said Joel Kruger, currency strategist at LMAX Exchange.

"Escalating global trade tension has already set the stage for profit taking, and this, coupled with less attractive valuations from another bump in U.S. rates, should set the stage for the start to an already well overdue rotation," he said.

Chinese shares rose after global index provider MSCI said it could quadruple China's weighting in global benchmarks. That lent fresh impetus to a market already buoyed by expectations of state stimulus to offset the impact of U.S. tariffs.

Shanghai-listed shares closed almost 1 percent higher at eight-week highs and the Hang Seng Index, made up of large Hong Kong companies, rose 1.15 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.20 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.17 percent.

Fed funds rate futures implied that traders are fully pricing in a U.S. rate hike later on Wednesday, plus an 85 percent chance of another rise in December. That expectation was cemented after data showed U.S. consumer confidence hit an 18-year high. The Fed's policymakers are due to wind up a two-day rate-setting meeting later in the day.

"The focus will be on whether the Fed will indicate its tightening is coming to an end. The Fed may not do so today but I expect markets will soon start looking to that scenario," said Akira Takei, bond fund manager at Asset Management One.

Investors were also keeping close watch on bond yields in the United States and Germany. Ten-year borrowing costs in both have inched to multi-month highs, with the first interest rate rise by the European Central Bank expected in September 2019.

German bonds, where many investors have taken shelter due to uncertainty in Italian markets, could see yields rise as the Italian coalition government has signalled its budget statement due Thursday will not include a spending binge. Italian yields fell as much as 10 bps on the day.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes last rose 4/32 in price to yield 3.089 percent, from 3.102 percent late on Tuesday.

The dollar index, tracking the greenback against six major currencies, rose 0.15 percent, with the euro was down 0.21 percent at $1.1746.

Oil prices eased off four-year highs above $82 hit on Tuesday but were still set for a fifth consecutive monthly quarter of gains, driven by a looming drop in Iranian exports in the last quarter of the year when global demand heats up.

U.S. crude fell 0.65 percent to $71.81 per barrel and Brent was last at $80.89, down 0.46 percent.

Gold prices slipped and copper fell for a third straight session on the expected Fed rate hike and the firmer dollar.

Spot gold dropped 0.6 percent to $1,194.11 an ounce. Copper lost 0.46 percent to $6,289.00 a tonne.

Additional reporting by Sujata Rao, Amanda Cooper, Zandi Shabalala and Peter Hobson in London, Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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