Early data from trials of three potential COVID-19 vaccines released on Monday, including a closely-watched candidate from Oxford University, increased confidence that a vaccine can train the immune system to recognize and fight the novel coronavirus without serious side effects.
European Union leaders appeared to near an agreement on Monday on a 750-billion-euro stimulus plan for regional economies hard-hit by the pandemic.
Also supporting sentiment were hopes for another round of U.S. economic stimulus after congressional Republicans announced plans to seek another $1 trillion in coronavirus economic relief.
"Global equities kicked off the trading week on a positive note as vaccine hopes supported optimism," Felicity Emmett of ANZ Research wrote. "U.S. politicians will begin discussing the next tranche of stimulus this week, and that's going to be a key focal point for markets too."
The day's news helped push the euro to its highest level in more than four months against the U.S. dollar, while the Nasdaq reached a new high - its seventh record in July.
The euro was up 0.16%, at $1.1444, while the yen gained 0.27%, to $107.2800.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.03%, the S&P 500 gained 0.84% and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.51%.
Tech stocks Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp provided the biggest boosts to the Nasdaq and the S&P500.
MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets rose 0.85%.
However, worries about the pandemic's economic and human toll pushed gold prices to their highest level since September 2011 on Monday. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.4% to $1,817.40 per ounce.
More than 14.58 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 605,782? have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Oil prices were little changed on Monday. Brent crude settled up 14 cents, or 0.3%, at $43.28 per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose 22 cents, 0.5%, to $40.81.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; W: (646) 223-5063 C: (219) 730-7611; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))