Did the US Fed just blink?

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This is probably precisely what Janet Yellen wants, as she looks to drive inflation back towards the 2% target.

In remarks to the House Committee on Financial Services, Yellen said the USA economy is strong enough to absorb further gradual rate increases and the slow wind down of the Fed's massive bond portfolio. The S&P 500 was up 0.9% and the Dow Jones industrial average held a 0.6% gain.

The move assuaged concerns among some traders anxious that the Fed has been moving too quickly to raise interest rates despite a slowdown in inflation and the USA economy's sluggish growth of just 1.4 percent in the first quarter.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard supported the June rate rise and on Tuesday embraced the plan to reduce the balance sheet "soon", but suggested her support for any future rate increases will depend in part on how inflation shapes up.

Yellen will give her semi-annual monetary policy testimony before Congress later on Wednesday and on Thursday, and investors will be parsing it for or clues on when the Fed will start reducing its massive balance sheet.

FED TALK: Yellen's comments in her semiannual testimony to Congress assuaged concerns among some traders that the Fed has been too hasty in raising interest rates despite stalling inflation and sluggish US economic growth of just 1.4 percent in the first quarter. The underlying gauge rose 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

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Yellen's testimony boosted the appeal of the higher yielding currencies.

The New Zealand dollar edged higher for a second day to $0.7264.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 112.95 yen from 113.18 yen.

She said a slow expansion of the labour force meant productivity gains, now average about 0.5 per cent, would need to lift past 2 per cent to help the economy grow. The Dow also hit an intraday record. The rate was expected to remain at 4.6 percent, as seen in the quarter to April.

Technology shares also rose sharply, with the tech index also up 1.3%.

Among oil stocks, Santos is rising 0.7 percent, while Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are advancing more than 1 percent each after crude oil prices advanced more than 1 percent overnight. Mainland China markets were mixed, with the Shanghai Composite trading higher by 0.08 percent, but the Shenzhen Composite was just below the flat line, off by 0.073 percent.

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