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GLOBAL MARKETS-Equities gain on in-line US inflation, Treasury yields dip

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S&P, Nasdaq end at record highs as data supports rate cut view

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Bitcoin tracks for 6th day of gains, 45% monthly gain

(Updates prices after U.S. stock market close, adds graphic)

By Sinéad Carew and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs and the global equity index advanced on Thursday after a much anticipated U.S. inflation reading provided little surprise for relieved investors and helped push U.S. Treasury yields lower.

The Nasdaq registered a record closing high for the first time in more than two years as Wall Street rebounded from the previous session's decline, which was due to investor jitters ahead of the U.S. personal consumer expenditures (PCE) price index data.

But in the end, the PCE data, which is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, showed the smallest annual increase in inflation in nearly three years, keeping the possibility of a June interest rate cut from the Fed on the table.

"Today's market movements really reflect a relief that we aren't seeing a re-acceleration in inflation. That's impacted fixed income markets as well as equity markets," said Sid Vaidya, U.S. wealth strategist at TD Wealth.

Investors had been particularly anxious ahead of the PCE data after the most recent consumer price index (CPI) and the producer price index (PPI) data were hotter than expected.

"Markets are actually heaving a bit of a sigh of relief that we didn't get the same type of upside surprises we saw in the earlier inflation readings," said Mona Mahajan, senior investment strategist at Edward Jones in New York.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 47.37 points, or 0.12%, to 38,996.39, the S&P 500 gained 26.51 points, or 0.52%, to a record closing high of 5,096.27.

The Nasdaq Composite gained 144.18 points, or 0.90%, to end at a peak of 16,091.92. Its previous record close was 16,057.44, hit in November 2021.

For the month, the S&P rose 5.17% while Nasdaq gained 6.12% and the Dow increased 2.22%, with all three registering their fourth straight monthly gains. It was the S&P's longest streak of monthly gains since the five months ending July 2023.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe was also eyeing a record close as it rose 2.73 points, or 0.36%, to 760.86.

The STOXX 600 index had ended unchanged while the German DAX climbed 0.4% to a fresh all-time high after data showed cheaper energy prices slowed inflation down to 2.7% in February.

Elsewhere in Europe, French consumer prices rose at a slower pace but slightly higher than forecasts, while in Spain annual inflation dropped but was in line with expectations.

In U.S. Treasuries, the yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes fell 0.6 basis points to 4.268%, from 4.274% late on Wednesday while the 30-year bond yield fell 2.2 basis points to 4.3884%. The 2-year note yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, was roughly flat at 4.6477% compared with 4.648% late Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, regained lost ground after earlier easing following the data, which soothed worries that price pressures could be seeing a renewed uptick.

Against the Japanese yen, the dollar weakened 0.47% to 149.96 yen after a Bank of Japan (BOJ) official hinted at the need to exit ultra-easy monetary policies.

The dollar index gained 0.17% at 104.11, with the euro down 0.28% at $1.0806.

Also in focus was bitcoin , which gained 1.82% at $61,665.00, eyeing its sixth daily gain in a row as well as its biggest monthly gain in more than three years. Investors are also waiting to see if it can return to its late 2021 record high of just under $69,000.

The approval and launch of spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds in the U.S. this year has opened the asset class to new investors and re-ignited the excitement that was sapped when prices collapsed in the "crypto winter" of 2022.

In commodities, oil prices slipped after U.S. data sent mixed signals about the outlook for crude demand from the world's top economy.

U.S. crude settled down 0.36% to $78.26 a barrel and Brent finished at $83.62 per barrel, down 0.07%.

In precious metals, gold scaled a one-month high, boosted by the dollar decline as traders switched their attention from the inflation data and to wait for commentary from Fed officials.

Spot gold added 0.43% to $2,043.39 an ounce. U.S. gold futures gained 0.5% to $2,043.10 an ounce.

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew, Caroline Valetkevitch, Marc Jones, Kevin Buckland, editing by Kirsten Donovan, William Maclean and Nick Zieminski and Marguerita Choy)

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