- Oil prices hit new two-year highs above $75 on demand optimism.
LONDON: US and European stocks held steady on Tuesday ahead of key testimony from US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell that could shed light on plans to hike interest rates and pare back stimulus measures.
Meanwhile, bitcoin fell under the $30,000 price level for the first time in five months in the face of a crackdown by Chinese authorities on cryptocurrency miners.
And oil prices hit new two-year highs above $75 on demand optimism.
Investors are waiting for testimony from Powell in which he is widely expected to shed more light on the monetary policy outlook.
"The markets remain focused on inflation and the implications on the timing of when the Fed may begin to dial back its monthly asset purchases," said analysts at Charles Schwab brokerage.
Markets were sent into turmoil last week after the Fed brought forward its forecasts for hiking interest rates as it looks to prevent overheating in the US economy.
In prepared remarks ahead of a House hearing Tuesday, Powell pledged again the bank's continued support to ensure the "sustained improvement" in the economy is extended.
Investors contemplated the US central bank's latest projections for hiking interest rates in light of the country's blockbuster economic recovery and sharp spike in inflation.
The Fed's "dot plot" forecast last week indicated liftoff in 2023 -- a year earlier than first flagged -- with some policymakers eyeing the end of 2022, while discussions on winding down, or "tapering" its vast bond-buying programme are likely in the next few months.
Schwab analysts said investors will be looking to Powell's discussion with lawmakers for "some color on what the tapering process may look like."
Ultra-loose monetary policy by the Fed and other central banks, along with massive government spending, have been key pillars of the rally across global equities enjoyed since their nadir in April last year.
Elsewhere, Brent oil briefly topped $75 for the first time in two years on a wave of demand optimism, as investors eye a surge in demand for the commodity as the global economy reopens.
New York crude had soared Monday as high as $73.96, attaining a peak last witnessed in October 2018.
"Demand optimism is now well established and a tightening of the (oil) market is very much in the spotlight," Vandana Hari, of Vanda Insights, said.
"If there is a pause in this rally, it will likely come from the supply side."
Both oil contracts however pulled lower nearing midday in London.
Key figures at 1330 GMT -
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,088.59 points
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 15,597.13
Paris - CAC 40: UP less than 0.1 percent at 6,604.62
EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 4,112.94
New York - Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 33,863.14
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 3.1 percent at 28,884.13 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.6 percent at 28,309.76 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,557.41 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1908 from $1.1919 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3899 from $1.3934
Euro/pound: UP at 85.70 pence from 85.54 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 110.65 yen from 110.27 yen
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $74.68 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.5 percent at $73.28 per barrel