GLOBAL MARKETS-Weak euro powers European stocks to new highs

* Euro slides to 12-year low

* European stocks power higher, German DAX hits new high

* Focus on Fed’s pledge to remain “patient”

By Jamie McGeever

LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) – The euro struck a fresh 12-year low on Monday and euro zone stocks reached new peaks on bets that the currency’s relentless fall will boost corporate earning prospects just as the rising dollar hits those of U.S. firms.

German stocks powered above 12,000 points for the first time, while the main pan-euro zone benchmark indices hit new seven-year highs.

The euro rebounded as European trading got underway, however, while U.S. oil prices recovered after slipping to a fresh six-year low, although they were still down on the day.

This week’s focal point for global financial markets is the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday, with the euro/dollar exchange rate likely to remain the dominant driver for major equity, currency and bond markets until then.

“With dollar momentum this strong and investors unlikely to ride any euro rally ahead of the (Fed) meeting, risks for the euro are still to the downside for the next couple of days and any bounces are likely to be limited,” Unicredit FX analysts said on Monday.

In early European trading the euro was up 1/3 of a percent against the dollar at $ 1.0530, having slid to $ 1.0457 early in the Asian session, its lowest since January 2003.

The euro has lost roughly a quarter of its value versus the dollar since mid-2014 and suffered its biggest weekly fall since September 2011 last week, shedding 3.2 percent as the European Central Bank launched its trillion euro money-printing scheme.

Goldman Sachs now sees the euro at $ 0.80 by the end of 2017.

European stocks took heart. Germany’s DAX was up 0.85 percent at 12,001 points, France’s CAC 40 half a percent higher at 5,039 points, and Britain’s FTSE 100 index up 0.25 percent at 6,758 points.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares rose 0.3 percent to 1,584 points and the euro zone top 50 stocks index was up 0.5 percent at a seven-year high of 3,673 points.

ECB IN AGAIN?

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed a few ticks higher, while Chinese shares outperformed to hit five-year-highs.

The CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index both rose more than 2 percent after Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing had scope to adjust policies to help boost the world’s second largest economy.

Japan’s Nikkei hit a 15-year high of 19,349 points

Recent weak U.S. inflation and retail sales data have not derailed expectations that the Fed will tighten monetary policy, and the prospects that higher rates and a stronger dollar will hit U.S. corporate profits have dragged on shares.

Wall Street futures were seen opening 0.2 percent higher on Monday, lagging Europe’s main bourses.

Many observers expect the Fed to remove its pledge to remain “patient” on delivering its first interest rate hike since 2006, with economists polled by Reuters almost evenly split on whether a first hike will come in June or later in the year.

German 10-year Bund yields inched up 1 basis point to 0.265 percent, having hit a record-low 0.188 percent last week. Longer-dated German yields fell, however, and benchmark Spanish, Italian and Portuguese yields were also headed back towards their recent record lows.

The ECB is expected to buy more sovereign bonds as part of its stimulus programme this week, limiting any upward pressure on bond yields.

“The current dynamic is incredible, logical and extendable … until something changes, but there is little sign of that right now,” Citi rates strategist Mark Schofield said.

Oil prices continued to tumble, with U.S. crude dropping more than 2 percent at one point to a six-year low on fears of oversupply. The International Energy Agency said on Friday that a global glut of oil is growing and U.S. production shows no sign of slowing.

U.S. crude was last down about 0.8 percent at $ 44.48 a barrel, while Brent was 0.6 percent lower at $ 54.32.

After snapping its longest daily losing streak since 1973 on Friday with a first rise in 10 sessions, gold consolidated its gains. Bullion was flat on the day at $ 1,158 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Twaronite in Tokyo; Editing by Catherine Evans; To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting; for the MacroScope Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope; for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

Weak euro powers European stocks to new highs

By Jamie McGeever

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro struck a fresh 12-year low on Monday and euro zone stocks reached new peaks on bets that the currency’s relentless fall will boost corporate earning prospects just as the rising dollar hits those of U.S. firms.

German stocks powered above 12,000 points for the first time, while the main pan-euro zone benchmark indices hit new seven-year highs.

The euro rebounded as European trading got underway, however, while U.S. oil prices recovered after slipping to a fresh six-year low, although they were still down on the day.

This week’s focal point for global financial markets is the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday, with the euro/dollar exchange rate likely to remain the dominant driver for major equity, currency and bond markets until then.

“With dollar momentum this strong and investors unlikely to ride any euro rally ahead of the (Fed) meeting, risks for the euro are still to the downside for the next couple of days and any bounces are likely to be limited,” Unicredit FX analysts said on Monday.

In early European trading the euro was up 1/3 of a percent against the dollar at $ 1.0530 (EUR=), having slid to $ 1.0457 early in the Asian session, its lowest since January 2003.

The euro has lost roughly a quarter of its value versus the dollar since mid-2014 and suffered its biggest weekly fall since September 2011 last week, shedding 3.2 percent as the European Central Bank launched its trillion euro money-printing scheme.

Goldman Sachs now sees the euro at $ 0.80 by the end of 2017.

European stocks took heart. Germany’s DAX (.GDAXI) was up 0.85 percent at 12,001 points, France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI) half a percent higher at 5,039 points, and Britain’s FTSE 100 index up 0.25 percent at 6,758 points (.FTSE).

The FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3) index of top European shares rose 0.3 percent to 1,584 points and the euro zone top 50 stocks index was up 0.5 percent at a seven-year high of 3,673 points.

ECB IN AGAIN?

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed a few ticks higher, while Chinese shares outperformed to hit five-year-highs.

The CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) both rose more than 2 percent after Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing had scope to adjust policies to help boost the world’s second largest economy.

Japan’s Nikkei hit a 15-year high of 19,349 points (.N225)

Recent weak U.S. inflation and retail sales data have not derailed expectations that the Fed will tighten monetary policy, and the prospects that higher rates and a stronger dollar will hit U.S. corporate profits have dragged on shares.

Wall Street futures were seen opening 0.2 percent higher (ESc1) on Monday, lagging Europe’s main bourses.

Many observers expect the Fed to remove its pledge to remain “patient” on delivering its first interest rate hike since 2006, with economists polled by Reuters almost evenly split on whether a first hike will come in June or later in the year.

German 10-year Bund yields inched up 1 basis point to 0.265 percent, having hit a record-low 0.188 percent last week. Longer-dated German yields fell, however, and benchmark Spanish, Italian and Portuguese yields were also headed back towards their recent record lows.

The ECB is expected to buy more sovereign bonds as part of its stimulus program this week, limiting any upward pressure on bond yields.

“The current dynamic is incredible, logical and extendable … until something changes, but there is little sign of that right now,” Citi rates strategist Mark Schofield said.

Oil prices continued to tumble, with U.S. crude dropping more than 2 percent at one point to a six-year low on fears of oversupply. The International Energy Agency said on Friday that a global glut of oil is growing and U.S. production shows no sign of slowing.

U.S. crude (CLc1) was last down about 0.8 percent at $ 44.48 a barrel, while Brent (LCOc1) was 0.6 percent lower at $ 54.32.

After snapping its longest daily losing streak since 1973 on Friday with a first rise in 10 sessions, gold consolidated its gains. Bullion was flat on the day at $ 1,158 an ounce (XAU=).

(Additional reporting by Lisa Twaronite in Tokyo; Editing by Catherine Evans; To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting; for the MacroScope Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope; for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks halt rally, BoE minutes stun markets

(Fixes spelling in headline) * Stocks fall, BoE minutes raise specter of rate hike * Fed minutes also on tap * Euro below $ 1.33 for first time in nearly a year By Jamie McGeever LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) – World stocks fell on Wednesday as investors braced for the possibility that a major central bank could raise interest rates this year after Bank of England minutes showed two of the bank’s nine rate-setters voted for a hike earlier this month.

Sterling and UK bond yields also rose after the unexpected shift closer to higher British rates, while record-low euro zone money market rates pushed the euro to its weakest against the dollar in a year.

As central bank policy signals and relative interest rates eclipsed geopolitical developments, investors were also braced for the release later Wednesday of minutes from the last Federal Reserve policy meeting.

The Fed minutes come ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s keenly-anticipated address to the annual gathering of policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.

“A split vote shows that the first rate hike is approaching,” said Philippe Gudin, an economist at Barclays, referring to the BoE.

“We expect the support for a rate increase to grow in the coming months and we foresee the first hike taking place before year end,” he said.

At midsession, Britain’s FTSE was down half of one percent at 6,748 points, Germany’s DAX was off a similar amount at 9,293 points and France’s CAC was down a third of one percent at 4,238 points.

Two of the biggest stock market movers in Europe were brewers. Shares in Denmark’s Carlsberg sank as much as 6 percent after the company said deteriorating conditions in Russia would hit overall profit this year. Dutch brewer Heineken jumped as much as 6 percent after first-half profit rose.

Stocks had been underpinned this week as attention shifted away from the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and by strong U.S. housing data and lower-than-expected UK inflation figures.

The MSCI index of world stocks slipped 0.1 percent to 428 points, and U.S. futures pointed to losses of around 0.1 percent at the open.

BOE, ECB DIVERGENCE Sterling rose 0.2 percent to $ 1.6650, rebounding from a five-month low earlier this week around $ 1.66, and Britain’s 10-year gilt yield rose 3 basis points to 2.43 percent .

Elsewhere in currencies, the dollar surged to a near one-year high against a basket of major counterparts. It hit 103.26 yen, its highest since early April, after Japan reported a larger-than-forecast trade deficit in July.

The euro slumped below $ 1.33 for the first time in 11 months after German producer prices fell more than expected in July, fuelling concerns that deflationary forces are spreading to the core of the 18-nation bloc.

“This is a combination of expectations of very low rates for a very long period of time, but also a reflection that the market has raised the odds of the European Central Bank being drawn into taking more serious action,” said Elwin de Groot, a senior market economist at Rabobank in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Overnight interbank lending rates in the euro zone are coming ever closer to zero. Eonia rates are now just 0.005 percent Key U.S. and euro zone government bond yields were little changed. The 10-year German government bond yield hovered just below 1 percent, the 2-year German yield was steady just below 0 percent after an auction and the 10-year U.S. yield was flat at 2.40 percent.

The 10-year Treasury yield had risen for the last three days, rebounding from a 14-month low of 2.30 percent last week.

In commodities, gold was stuck below $ 1,300 an ounce XAU= after shedding 1.3 percent in the last three sessions.

Brent crude futures recovered from near 14-month lows, ticking up a third of one percent to $ 101.95 a barrel, although ample supplies are putting prices at risk of renewed losses.

To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on: http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting For the MacroScope Blog click on: http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope For Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on: http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub (Reporting by Jamie McGeever, additional reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Toby Chopra)

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks halt rally, BoE jolts UK markets

* Stocks rally pauses, BoE minutes jolt investors * Euro lowest in almost a year, falls below $ 1.33 * Attention shifts from Ukraine-Russia conflict By Jamie McGeever LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) – World stocks mostly halted their recent rally on Wednesday before the latest policy signal from the U.S. central bank, while UK stocks and bonds fell after Bank of England minutes showed two rate-setters voted to raise interest rates earlier this month.

Sterling jumped after the BoE minutes showed two of the nine policymakers unexpectedly voted to raise rates, while record-low money-market rates in the euro zone took the euro to its weakest against the dollar in almost a year.

Stocks had risen this week after strong U.S. housing data and lower-than-expected UK inflation figures, which suggested economic activity was rising but not fast enough to force interest rates higher any time soon. The BoE minutes prompted some to reassess, though.

“The voting has surely caught the market by surprise, given that the (latest) inflation number was so low, but now we know that we have two hawkish members in the committee,” said Naem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade. “This has lowered the bar for an increase in interest rates this year.” Later in the day, minutes from the last Federal Reserve policy meeting will be released. On Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will address an annual gathering of policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.

Riskier assets had been underpinned by a shift in attention away from the Ukraine-Russia conflict, but investors used the relatively calm economic and political backdrop to take some money out of the market.

The MSCI index of world stocks slipped 0.1 percent to 428 points, the major European bourses fell by up to 0.2 percent and U.S. futures pointed to losses of around 0.2 percent at the open.

Britain’s FTSE was down a third of one percent at 6760 points, Germany’s DAX was off a similar amount at 9300 points and France’s CAX was down 0.4 percent at 4236 points.

Shares in Denmark’s Carlsberg sank almost 6 percent after the company said deteriorating conditions in Russia would hit overall profit this year. Dutch brewer Heineken jumped 6 percent after first-half profit rose.

Earlier in Asia, the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.1 percent, while Tokyo’s Nikkei ended the day flat.

Japan reported a wider-than-expected trade deficit in July of 964 billion yen, pushing the dollar as high as 103.26 yen , its highest since early April.

Sterling rose 0.25 percent to $ 1.6650, rebounding from a five-month low earlier this week around $ 1.66, and Britain’s 10-year gilt yield rose 3 basis points to 2.43 percent .

The euro remained under pressure, in part from the decline of overnight interbank lending rates in the euro zone, which are coming ever closer to zero. Eonia rates are now just 0.005 percent.

The euro fell below $ 1.33 for the first time in 11 months after German producer prices fell more than expected in July, fuelling concerns that deflationary forces are spreading to the core of the 18-nation bloc.

“This is a combination of expectations of very low rates for a very long period of time, but also a reflection that the market has raised the odds of the European Central Bank being drawn into taking more serious action,” said Elwin de Groot, a senior market economist at Rabobank in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Key U.S. and euro zone government bond yields were little changed. The 10-year German government bond yield hovered just below 1 percent, the 2-year German yield was down slightly before an auction later in the day and the benchmark 10-year U.S. yield was flat at 2.40 percent.

The 10-year Treasury yield had risen for the last three days, rebounding from a 14-month low of 2.30 percent last week.

In commodities, gold was stuck below $ 1,300 an ounce after shedding 1.3 percent in the last three sessions.

Brent crude futures recovered from near 14-month lows, ticking up a quarter of one percent to $ 101.80 a barrel, although ample supplies are putting prices at risk of renewed losses.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever, additional reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Larry King; To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting; for the MacroScope Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope; for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

ECB easing bets push euro to three-month low

By Marc Jones and Jamie McGeever

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro fell to a three-month low against the dollar and stocks and bonds in the region climbed on Friday, after a wobble in German business confidence added to expectations the European Central Bank will cut interest rates next month.

Asian shares had also finished the week strongly, hitting one-year highs, while benchmark U.S. and European bond yields, which move inverse to prices, were heading for rises after a week lacking in clear direction in terms of data and sentiment.

Mario Draghi and his ECB colleagues have been sending clear signals in recent weeks that a rate cut plus a few other unconventional measures are on the cards for next month.

A weaker-than-expected reading from Germany’s closely-watched Ifo business climate index as it fell to its lowest level of the year was enough to convince many ECB action was now a nailed-on certainty.

The euro was down a third of 1 percent on the day at $ 1.3621, the lowest in three months and crucially below a technical support level of $ 1.3636 that had held firm for almost nine months.

It’s a level the single currency has flirted with three times this week but has not closed below it. This could be the first day it has done so since September last year.

“The renewed fall in the Ifo in May suggests that the German recovery may be slowing. We expect annual GDP growth of about 2 percent this year and next, which will not be strong enough to drive a rapid recovery across the euro zone or to eradicate the threat of deflation,” said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics.

Sovereign credit ratings upgrades on Friday for Spain and Greece had little impact on European markets as their respective economies have been improving for some time [ID:nL3N0O91AQ] [ID:nL6N0O9199]

Investors were also reluctant to take on too much risk ahead of European election results and a presidential election in Ukraine this weekend, and because British and U.S. markets are closed on Monday, which will dry up market liquidity.

“In places like Italy and Greece we don’t have properly elected governments, they are just cobbled together, so this weekend’s results will play on people’s minds,” said Marc Ostwald, a strategist at Monument Securities.

NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Share markets in Europe suffered a soft start but the ECB expectations had helped them recover by midday and U.S. futures pointed to Wall Street starting steady. <.N>

The FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading European shares was little changed at 1,365 points <.FTEU3>, Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI> was up 0.2 percent at 9,743 points while Britain’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE> was down 0.2 percent at 6,801 points.

Estonia’s ECB member Ardo Hansson on Friday echoed Germany’s Jens Weidmann in backing the idea of charging banks a penalty if they stockpile spare cash at the ECB, a move designed to encourage them to use it instead to lend to firms and consumers.

“Negative interest rates (on ECB deposit facility) are not completely uncharted territory as some of the smaller countries have done this. The fact that it has been tried elsewhere makes you a bit more comfortable,” Hansson said in an interview.

Earlier in Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 0.1 percent at 487.70 after hitting a one-year high of 488.42.

Markets were only mildly distracted by news that Thailand’s military had seized power in a bloodless coup late on Thursday, pitching the nation into a further period of uncertainty as the long drawn out political crisis shows no signs of resolution.

The Nikkei <.N225> climbed 0.9 percent as the yen remained on the back foot against the dollar. The Japanese index gained about 2.7 percent this week, notching its first weekly gain in three.

ELECTIONS

Investors also felt a sense of relief getting through the week without serious market ructions from the crisis in Ukraine as it, like Europe, also gears up for elections over the weekend.

Russian shares <.MCX> were sitting just off a 3-month high after a fourth week of gains. U.S. Treasury debt yields slipped 1 basis point on the day to 2.54 percent but were still up almost 5 basis points on the week following the recent slide to multi-month lows below 2.50 percent.

Against the backdrop of this weekend’s European elections where Eurosceptic parties are expected to make gains, Italian 10-year yields were on track for their biggest weekly rise in a year, albeit from recent multi-year lows.

The dollar traded a shade higher at 101.93 yen, and has gained about 0.2 percent on the week. Though the rise is modest, it is still poised to snap a four-week losing run versus the yen.

Benchmark three-month nickel futures at the London Metal Exchange (LME) looked set to pocket a 3.5 percent weekly gain, building on the year’s stellar advance after a shutdown of Indonesian supply, while Brent oil and gold were steady after largely quiet weeks.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever, additional reporting by John Geddie in London; Editing by Alison Williams; To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting;

for the MacroScope Blog click on http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope;

for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

No policy shift from ECB despite low inflation

By Leika Kihara

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank left interest rates on hold and unveiled no other measures to bolster a fragile euro zone recovery on Thursday despite forecasting low inflation for years to come.

The ECB left its main interest rate at 0.25 percent, a move generally expected by markets, and held the deposit rate it pays banks for holding their money overnight at zero.

New forecasts from ECB staff put inflation at 1.0 percent this year, 1.3 percent in 2015 and 1.5 percent in 2016 – below its target of close to 2 percent all the way through the projection.

ECB President Mario Draghi told a news conference that the latest economic information suggested recovery was on track and needed no extra push for now.

“We saw our (economic) baseline by and large confirmed,” he said. “The news that has come out since the last monetary policy meeting is also, I would say, by and large on the positive side.”

Inflation has been in what Draghi calls the “danger zone” below 1 percent for five months now and was running at 0.8 percent at the last count.

The new forecasts saw the euro zone economy growing by 1.8 percent in 2016 after 1.5 percent in 2015 and 1.2 percent this year, a slight upwards revision from its previous 2014 estimate but well below what is considered a trend rate of growth.

“Annual HICP (EU harmonised) inflation rates are expected to remain at around current levels in the coming months,” Draghi said. “Thereafter, inflation rates should gradually increase and reach levels closer to 2 percent.”

The forecasts presume an unchanged exchange rate and falling oil prices.

Draghi rejected comparisons with Japan’s experience of deflation which became so entrenched that companies and households held off on spending on expectations of lower prices ahead, leading to two decades of economic stagnation.

ECB policymakers have insisted that so far there is no sign of euro zone citizens deferring spending plans.

The lack of action was significant since last month Draghi had signalled that by the March policy meeting the ECB would have enough information to judge the need for fresh stimulus.

The International Monetary Fund believes more needs to be done.

Reza Moghadam, head of the IMF’s European Department, said in a blog on Wednesday that the ECB should cut interest rates and pump out more money, perhaps through QE.

RELATED:

Euro inflation vs rates http://link.reuters.com/kuj24s

Euro inflation by country http://link.reuters.com/vex45v

ECB’s LTRO http://link.reuters.com/per53v

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Central bank rate comparison http://link.reuters.com/jyv94s

NO MOVE ON LIQUIDITY

Like the Bank of Japan, which meets to set policy next week, the ECB is running out of room to cut interest rates putting the onus on alternative policy measures.

An ECB source had predicted it would stop offsetting money it put into the financial system through government bonds it bought at the height of the euro debt crisis by withdrawing an equivalent amount of funds from week to week.

ECB policymaker Ewald Nowotny told Reuters last month that he and his colleagues were nearing unanimity on what would have marked a big philosophical shift and a step towards U.S.-style quantitative easing (QE).

The resultant release of around 175 billion euros would have roughly doubled the amount of excess liquidity in the financial system, helping to bring down interbank lending rates.

But Draghi said there was no sign of back door monetary tightening via climbing money market rates and therefore no need to act, for now at least.

“The suspension of sterilisation … is one of the instruments that is in our list but we didn’t see any development in the money markets that would lead to that unwanted tightening of monetary conditions that would justify the use of this instrument,” he said.

He added that the benefits of such a move would be limited since most of the government bonds the ECB holds would mature in a few years.

(Writing by Paul Carrel/Mike Peacock Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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