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Stimulus fears haunt global equities while the dollar recovers

Global equity markets slipped yesterday on worries that the US Federal Reserve may curtail its stimulus measures, while the dollar recovered against the euro to trade almost flat after better-than-expected US durable goods data for April.

European shares fell, marking their first weekly decline in five weeks, while US stocks were poised to do the same after testimony by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sparked speculation the US central bank will begin to trim its support for the economy.

The Fed’s purchase of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, being conducted at a monthly pace of $85 billion, has been a boon to equities markets and other riskier assets.

“Markets are looking for a reset and a retracement lower, closer to more compelling valuations,” said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey.

After Bernanke’s congressional testimony on Wednesday and the release of minutes the same day from the latest Fed policy-setting meeting, there was a shift that “reintroduced a sense of caution that has long been absent” in markets, Kenny said.

The Fed minutes showed that some policymakers were willing to consider scaling back on bond purchases as early as the Fed’s June meeting.

MSCI’s all-country world equity index fell 0.21 per cent, while Europe’s broad FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of leading shares closed down 0.23 per cent to a provisional 1,227.11.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 27.34 points, or 0.18 per cent, at 15,267.16. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 5.34 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 1,645.17.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 10.56 points, or 0.31 per cent, at 3,448.86.

The concerns about the Fed’s next step helped bolster the price of gold, which was on track for its biggest weekly rise in a month after recent sharp declines. Spot gold prices fell $2.24 an ounce, or 0.16 per cent, to $1,388.40.

Orders for long-lasting US manufactured goods rose more than expected in April, a hopeful sign that a sharp slowdown in factory output could soon run its course.

The euro was last at $1.2920, down about 0.12 per cent against the dollar. Against the yen, the dollar was last 1.01 per cent lower, at 101.00 yen.

Earlier, the euro had risen against the dollar after the monthly German Ifo survey show­ed that business morale improved more than expected in May.

The data suggested Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is picking up, making further euro­zone monetary easing less likely.

Oil was poised to post its biggest weekly loss in more than a month as Brent fell below $102 per barrel, pressured by ample supply and a sluggish recovery that could dent demand for fuel.

Brent fell 19 cents to $102.25 a barrel. US crude fell 34 cents to $93.91 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was up 4/32 in price to yield 2.0107 per cent. (Reuters)

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