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Stocks rise globally on Fed; Greece still a concern

A man walks under an electronic information board at the London Stock Exchange in the City of London January 2, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock markets around the world rallied on Thursday, while the U.S. dollar fell, a day after the Federal Reserve signalled that interest rates would rise more slowly than many had expected.

While uncertainty over Greece continued to weigh on sentiment, hopes that a deal would be reached returned European equities to positive territory.

U.S. stocks hit session highs after a German newspaper reported Greece's aid will be extended until year-end, and the Nasdaq hit a closing record.

The Fed said on Wednesday that the U.S. economy was probably strong enough to support a rate increase this year, but it lowered its forecasts for 2015 economic growth and reduced its federal funds rate forecast.

U.S. consumer prices posted last month their largest increase in more than two years in May, while jobless claims applications fell last week to a near 15-year low.

Analysts are torn on whether the first interest rate rise in nearly a decade will come in September or December, but the Fed's comments indicated that no matter when the first one occurred, the move would not be aggressive.

"Gradualism for rate increases is a soothing message for the market," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist and director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta. "September remains on the table, but the downward drift in the forecasts for next year means the increases will happen gradually, and that's a relief for investors."

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 180.1 points, or 1 percent, to 18,115.84. The benchmark S&P 500 stock index (.SPX) gained 20.8 points, or 0.99 percent, to 2,121.24.

The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) hit a session high of 5,143.316, topping the previous 5,132.52 record which stood since March 10, 2000 and then set a record closing high of 5,132.95.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 5/32 in price, pushing the yield up to 2.3237 percent. The U.S. dollar index (.DXY), which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.3 percent. The dollar fell 0.4 percent against the yen (JPY=).

The situation in Greece remains a concern for investors. Euro zone leaders will hold an emergency summit on Monday to try to avert a default after bank withdrawals accelerated and government revenue slumped as Athens and its international creditors remain deadlocked over a debt deal.

Finance ministers of the 19-nation currency bloc failed to make any breakthrough on a cash-for-reforms agreement at talks in Luxembourg on Thursday, just 12 days before Greece must make a debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund.

"Greece is the best drama on TV right now, and we put the odds of a successful resolution at no better than a coin toss," Gayle said. "Clearly this has the potential to really increase near-term volatility."

The MSCI International ACWI Price Index <.MIWD00000PUS> rose 1.0 percent on the day while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3) ended 0.2 percent higher, erasing earlier losses. The euro (EUR=) rose 0.3 percent.

Overnight in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.4 percent on Thursday, while Japan's Nikkei (.N225) skidded 1.1 percent to a one-week low as the yen gained against the dollar.

In commodities, oil rose on the back of the weaker dollar. Brent crude (LCOc1) rose 0.6 percent to $64.26 a barrel and U.S. crude (CLc1) rose 0.9 percent to settle at $60.45.

Spot gold prices (XAU=) popped 1.4 percent in the best day for the precious metal since May 13. Silver (XAU=) was up 0.3 percent. Copper (CMCU3) rose 0.2 percent, snapping its fourth straight daily decline.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)