World stocks clung close to nine-month highs on Wednesday with some profit taking in Europe keeping a lid on further gains and cautious words from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dampening sentiment.

The dollar was steady against major currencies.

MSCI's all-country world stock index <.MIWD00000PUS> was down 0.2 percent, just off a 2009 high reached on Tuesday that took the index to levels last seen in October 2008.

The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares was down 0.5 percent, breaking a seven-day winning streak. Earlier, Japan's Nikkei <.N225> rose 0.7 percent to hit its highest in more than two weeks.

Experience tells us that the market doesn't go up for more than seven or eight days in a row and people were getting the feeling that the market (was overbought), said Jim Wood-Smith, strategist at Williams de Broe.

Equities have been rallying sharply over the past week as corporate earnings reports, including many U.S. majors, have provided positive surprises.

On Tuesday, for example, Caterpillar Inc , Apple Inc and Merck & Co , all issued encouraging profit reports. But some firms, including Caterpillar, have been cautious about the current quarter.

Bernanke also sounded a note of caution on Tuesday, saying U.S. unemployment was likely to remain high into 2011 which could undermine consumer confidence and derail a recovery.


The dollar held steady against most major currencies, recouping losses following Bernanke's comments, which implied U.S. interest rates would stay low for some time.

Bernanke was trying to improve policy credibility in the market and anchor inflation expectations, said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

The dollar has been broadly stable and that is a sign that Bernanke's message has come across well, he said.

The dollar index <.DXY>, a gauge of its performance against six major currencies, was up 0.1 percent at 79.045 after touching 78.591 on Tuesday, its lowest since June 3.

The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.4183 after hitting a seven-week high on Tuesday at $1.4278, close to its peak for the year.

Euro zone government bond yields were flat to lower.

Crude oil was down 76 cents at $64.84 a barrel. An unexpected rise in U.S. crude stocks suggested demand in the world's top energy consumer was still weak.