GLOBAL MARKETS-Yellen comments boost dollar, stocks fall
* European stocks hold near three-month high
* Euro hits fresh 7-1/2-month low
* Dollar hits highest since March 2003
* U.S. crude falls below $40 (Adds oil settlement prices, close of U.S. markets)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The dollar strengthened on Wednesday and stocks fell on Wall Street, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled a readiness to hike interest rates and U.S. data indicated a solid labor market.
Yellen said she was "looking forward" to a U.S. rate hike that will be seen as a testament to the economy's recovery from recession, although she did not indicate if she still expected a hike would be warranted at the Fed's last policy meeting of the year on Dec. 15-16.
"I was a little surprised she sounded as hawkish as she did given we're two days away from the nonfarm payrolls report and a couple of weeks away from the Fed FOMC meeting," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.
"She gave the impression the Fed is still looking to make a move here in December even despite yesterday's weak ISM numbers." Continuación...