By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - World shares rallied to their highest since February and the euro hit its strongest in 18 months on Tuesday after European Union leaders agreed on a landmark stimulus package 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 its highest in almost nine years. Bullion got an extra boost from a weaker dollar and expectations of more U.S. stimulus from Washington.
The willingness to raise a 750 billion-euro ($857 billion) fund 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 and the fund should support regional growth over the medium term, Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, told investors.
Germany's DAX index <.GDAXI> entered positive territory for the year before paring gains to end up 0.96%. The euro <EUR=> rose 0.68% to $1.1522 after touching $1.1539, its highest since early January 2019. The single currency has gained more than 6% in the past three months.
Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> closed up 0.31%. MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets <.MIWD00000PUS> advanced 0.63% 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 year's end also backed 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 <.DJI> rose 0.6% and the S&P 500 <.SPX> added 0.17% after regaining positive territory Monday for the year for the first time since June 8. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 0.81%.
The 10-year U.S. Treasury <US10YT=RR> note fell 1.8 basis points to 0.602% after earlier sliding below 0.6%.
With the EU recovery plan sealed, investors will now focus on further U.S. stimulus after $3 trillion was injected earlier this year.
U.S. congressional negotiations aimed at hammering out an agreement on a new coronavirus aid package intensified as COVID-19 infections and deaths surged to record levels across the United States.
Emerging markets stocks <.MSCIEF> surged 2.12%. Major equity indexes have rebounded 45% off March lows, boosted by record levels of government and central bank stimulus to cushion the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and large-scale unemployment.
Markets have become polarized, with investors either overly exuberant or terrified the sky is falling, said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.
They are ignoring stretched valuations or buying 10-year debt instruments with negative yields, he said.
"This is the day of the extremists on both sides, very much as it is in politics," Kelly said. "The boring moderates in the middle are probably where the value is right now rather in the extremes of safety or exuberance."
Asian shares overnight followed a tech-led rally Monday on Wall Street that pushed the Nasdaq to its seventh closing high this month. The Sydney stock market <.AXJO> clocked its best day in over a month with a 2.6% jump. [.T]
(Graphic: Potential allocation of EU recovery fund as share of GDP - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xegpbmrxkvq/Pasted%20image%201594924346874.png)
Oil prices rose more than 3% before paring some gains. Brent crude futures <LCOc1> settled up $1.04 at $44.32 a barrel. U.S. crude futures <CLc1> rose $1.15 to settle at $41.96 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. [GOL/]
Spot gold prices <XAU=> rose $24.4968 to $1,839.89 an ounce. U.S. gold futures <GCcv1> settled up 1.5% at $1,843.9.
"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.
(Graphic: World stocks and oil vs COVID-19 - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/yzdpxnyzepx/Pasted%20image%201595328786322.png)
(Reporting by Herbert Lash, editing by David Gregorio and Richard Chang)