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World stock markets push higher on Fed focus

World stock markets mostly rose on Monday following a forecast-busting US jobs report that looks set to prompt an interest hike this week from the Federal Reserve.

The pound advanced amid speculation that Britain could trigger as soon as Tuesday the formal process for exiting the European Union.

Sterling held onto its gains despite the announcement by Scotland’s nationalist government of plans for another independence vote.

In the United States, Friday’s employment report reinforced a long-running belief the world’s top economy was on a strong growth track and focus is now on the conclusion of the central bank’s policy meeting Wednesday.

In a busy week for global monetary policy, the Japanese and British central banks also meet this week.

“Another rate hike could be just days away, indeed, given the way the Fed’s policymakers have been talking, it is practically a certainty at this point,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group.

“Friday’s jobs report reinforced the narrative, but the key now will be what the statement and press conference say.”

The dollar wobbled Monday as some traders took out their profits before the Fed meeting.

“Markets are already fully priced for a Fed rate hike on Wednesday,” said Janu Chan, a senior economist at St George Bank in Sydney.

Most stock markets in Asia started the week on a high — tracking all three main Wall Street indices — after the Labor Department said the US economy created 235,000 new jobs in February, much more than estimated.

– US flatlines before Fed –

US markets opened flat.

“US stocks are hovering around the flatline in early action … amid heightened Fed rate hike expectations for Wednesday and ramped up political uncertainty in Europe,” said analysts at US brokerage Charles Schwab.

But oil prices continued to suffer following last week’s losses of about nine percent in both main contracts, hit by a surprisingly big jump in US stockpiles, increased US shale production and concerns about implementation of a OPEC-Russia led deal to cut output.

“For all the somewhat hopeful talk from industry experts about oil inventories running down later in the year, the fact remains that US shale has come back harder, faster and cheaper than anyone could have imagined,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group.

“Talk is cheap, and oil is getting cheaper as well.”

– Key figures around 1330 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,368.07 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 11,985.89

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,004.31

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.02 percent at 3,416.99

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.01 percent at 20,901.13

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 19,633.75 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 23,829.67 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,237.02 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0664 from $1.0672

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2225 from $1.2169

Dollar/yen: UP at 114.80 yen from 114.78 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 7 cents at $51.44 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 11 cents at $48.38

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