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Stocks up, investors balance China and central banks

World shares and bonds edged up on Monday as investors assessed a lower growth target from China than many had expected, with testimony from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and jobs data this week that could decide the pace of future rate hikes.

There was some disappointment that Beijing chose to lowball its growth outlook with a target of 5.0 per cent, rather than the 5.5 per cent-plus favoured by the market.

Safe-haven government bond prices rallied, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries down four basis points to 3.92 per cent, following last week's spike above 4.0 per cent.

Oil prices also dipped, reflecting some gloom over China's growth target.

Still, the recent run of data, which has significantly reduced expectations of a recession, has been strong enough to keep investors optimistic.

While Chinese stocks dropped, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was still up 0.5 per cent by 0933 GMT, while Japan's Nikkei touched a three-month high.

European stocks also rose, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index up 0.1 per cent, nearing its highest since February 2022. S&P 500 futures signalled US markets were also set to open higher.

"Sentiment this morning is dominated by the modest, revised growth target in China highlighting a diminished likelihood of more stimulus," said Kristoffer Kjaer Lomholt, head of FX, corporate research and chief analyst at Danske Bank.

"The announcement may disappoint some investors, but on the other hand, it could ease some fears of a strong inflationary impact from China," Lomholt added.

Focus was firmly on central banks, ahead of a key speech by Fed Chairman Powell and policy decisions this week from Japan, Australia and Canada.

Markets have become resigned to a higher peak interest rate from the Fed, but are hoping it will stick with quarter-point increases, rather than half-point hikes.

San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly on Saturday reiterated rates may have to go up, but set a high bar for moving back to half-point increases.

The stage is set for Powell's testimony to Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he will no doubt be quizzed on whether larger hikes are needed.

Much, however, might depend on what the February US payrolls report reveals on Friday. Forecasts are centred on a more modest increase of 200,000 following January's barnstorming 517,000 jump that led markets to reprice their interest rate expectations, but risks are on the upside.

And that will be followed by the February inflation report on March 14.

"Powell's testimony comes before the payrolls and inflation numbers, therefore, he is likely to avoid committing to a policy path," said Jan Nevruzi, an analyst at NatWest Markets.

"Payrolls are due on the final day when Fed officials can publicly discuss monetary policy, but CPI will be released during the blackout period," he added.

"If we end up in a situation where the jobs and inflation numbers present a conflicting view, the outcome of the Fed meeting could become even harder to predict."

The dollar index, which measures the performance of the US currency against six others, was in wait-and-see mode, down 0.1 per cent at 104.53, while the euro held at $US1.0633 ($A1.5804), just off a recent seven-week low.

The Fed is hardly alone in warning of further tightening.

In an interview released over the weekend, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said it was "very likely" they would raise interest rates by 50 basis points this month and the bank had more work to do on inflation.

However, decisions after March must be based on data, governing council member and Portuguese central bank Governor Mario Centeno said, stressing the importance of taking into account the economic forecasts the bank will release in March.

This week, Australia's central bank is expected to lift its rates by 25 basis points on Tuesday, while the Bank of Canada is seen pausing having raised rates at a record pace of 425 basis points in 10 months.

Then, Friday marks the final policy meeting for Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Haruhiko Kuroda before Kazuo Ueda takes the reins in April, and all eyes are on the fate of its yield curve control tool.

The BOJ jolted markets in December when it unexpectedly widened the allowed trading band for 10-year bond yields to between -50 and +50 basis points.

So far, Ueda has sounded dovish on the outlook for policy which has kept the yen on a softer trend. The yen started the week down 0.1 per cent after touching a three-week low of 137.10 last week.

Gold was last down 0.2 per cent at $US1,852 ($A2,753) an ounce but still traded above last week's lows, benefiting from a pullback in bond yields.