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Euro hits 11-year low before ECB, stocks edge higher

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro hit an 11-year low against the dollar and the region’s stocks nudged higher on Thursday, as the European Central Bank prepared to provide the finer details of its soon-to-be-launched 1 trillion euro stimulus plan.

The common currency fell to as low as $ 1.1026, its lowest level since September 2003 and the region’s stock <.FTEU3> and periphery bond markets [GVD/EUR] opened up as hopes for the ECB’s policy meeting in Cyprus lifted investors’ spirits.

The slide in the euro came as the dollar <.DXY> continued to claw higher on bets the U.S. Federal Reserve — in sharp contrast to the ECB — is heading for its first rate hike in almost a decade this year.

For the last six week’s the ECB has been working on exactly how it will choreograph the massive quantitative easing plan sketched out in January amid lingering resistance from countries such as Germany and technical issues that need ironing out.

“We want to know all the details that put the meat on the bones of how they are actually going to do it,” said Neil Murray, head of pan-European fixed income at Aberdeen Asset Management.

“Are they going to do it as any auction… will they look at the full German curve but only out to five years on BBB rated countries, or will they be happy to look at 10-years on all countries until they can’t buy anymore.”

Euro zone borrowing costs lurked around record lows as traders put the finishing touches on positions ahead of the ECB’s 0830 ET post-meeting news conference.

German two-year yields were minus 0.20 percent, in line with the ECB’s deposit rate as markets questioned whether the bond-buying scheme would include assets that yield less than that as it would leave the ECB facing potentially large losses.

Elsewhere, the rise in the dollar was keeping emerging markets, which use what is becoming increasingly expensive dollar debt to help fund themselves, under the cosh.

Alongside the pressure on the wide-spread of currencies, EM stocks on MSCI’s benchmark index <.MSCIEF> were down for their fifth straight day. [EMRG/FRX]


The ECB will also provide new euro zone economic forecasts at its meeting later that are expected to see their first upgrade to growth expectations for a long time. It is also expected to keep the pressure on Greece by maintaining the current ban on the use of Greek bonds in its lending operations.

Asian stocks had slipped overnight after Wall Street had continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday’s closely-watched U.S. jobs data that will give further clues on how likely the Fed is to start raising rates.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> shed 0.4 percent with Thai, Malaysian and Chinese stocks all posting losses which offset small gains for the Nikkei <.N225> in Tokyo and South Korea’s Kospi <.KS11>.

As well as the ECB, 20 other central banks around the world have either cut interest rates or eased monetary policy in some form so far this year.

With the U.S. Federal Reserve one of the few going in the other direction, the dollar hit an 11-year high against a basket of major currencies as 10-year Treasury yields hovered near two-week highs at 2.134.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil added to overnight gains, rising 0.4 percent to $ 51.73 a barrel, and Brent gained 0.1 percent to $ 60.59 a barrel . The lack of a deal in talks over Iran’s nuclear program allayed fears of an imminent rise in oil supply from the OPEC nation, supporting oil. [O/R]

Precious metal gold , meanwhile, was flat at $ 1,200, while its industrial metal counterparts copper and recently under-pressure aluminum were all little changed. [MET/L]

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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