World stocks rose for the fourth session in a row on Wednesday on hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve will ride to the economy's rescue with another stimulus package, though global shares were still set to post their biggest monthly drop in 15 months.
The prospect of more Fed action weighed on the dollar while fresh concerns that Italy is struggling to cope with its debt burden drove the euro lower against the safe-haven Swiss franc.
Gold, bolstered throughout August by safe-haven buying, eased 0.3 percent and was poised to post its biggest monthly rise since November 2009.
The price of 10-year U.S. Treasuries and German Bunds also rose sharply this month, with Treasury yields down more than half a percentage point despite the U.S. losing one of its AAA credit ratings.
Tuesday's slump in U.S. consumer confidence to its lowest in two years, along with Fed minutes showing policymakers discussed a range of unusual tools they could use to help the economy, further bolstered expectations that the U.S. central bank is ready to act.
The Fed's decision to hold a two-day meeting in September instead of a one-day session has already helped stabilize financial markets after a steep sell-off earlier in August on concerns over slowing global growth and the euro zone debt crisis.
Although the release of the FOMC meeting minutes offered little in the way of consensus as to precisely what the central bank will do next, it does still leave the door open for further action so this may well help keep the general sentiment upbeat, said Cameron Peacock, market analyst at IG Markets.
U.S. stock index futures rose 0.7 to 0.9 percent, indicating a firm start on Wall Street ahead of the U.S. private sector jobs data at 1215 GMT.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 finance/markets/index?symbol=gb%21FTPP>.FTEU3 index of leading shares climbed 1.3 percent, though it was still down 12 percent in August and set for its biggest monthly fall since October 2008, a month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Global equities measured by the MSCI All-Country World Index .MIWD00000PUS advanced 0.6 percent. The benchmark is down 8.2 percent this month, heading for its worst monthly percentage drop since May last year.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei average .N225 ended flat and was down 8.9 percent in August, its biggest one month decline in 15 months.
Expectations of further stimulus from the U.S. weighed on the dollar, which was down 1.2 percent at 0.8103 francs and 0.2 percent at 76.53 yen on Wednesday.
In the run-up to the September FOMC, we're probably going to have a bit more chatter about QE3 ... which is likely to keep the dollar weak, said Andrew Robinson, FX analyst for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.
The U.S. currency was down 1.3 percent in August versus the yen, despite Tokyo's efforts to weaken its currency through intervention. The greenback is down 5.7 percent this year against the yen, which has held its safe-haven appeal.
The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.4435, though the single currency is up 7.9 percent against the dollar this year, largely helped by Asian investors' moves to diversify their assets.
Copper added 0.6 percent, up for the sixth day in a row, while Brent crude dipped 0.3 percent to trade below $114 a barrel.
Yields on 10-year Treasuries were steady at 2.1723 percent after falling about 60 basis points in August. Benchmark Bund yields have dropped 40 basis points over the same period.
(Additional reporting by Nia Williams, and graphics by Scott Barber; Editing by Patrick Graham, John Stonestreet)