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Euro near 1-month high, stocks weaken

Jun 06 2011 14:22 Reuets

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London - The euro hovered near a one-month high against the dollar on Monday, boosted by prospects of an ECB rate hike and a fresh Greek bailout deal, while concerns about the US economy sent stocks tumbling.

On government debt markets, growth worries outweighed expectations of fresh aid for Athens, supporting demand for safe-haven assets to send Bund futures higher.

The single currency continued a recent strong run after a review of Greece's accounts by international lenders on Friday allayed fears of a near-term default and opened the way for an injection of fresh funds.

But it shed some of its gains after Germany's finance ministry said a lenders' inspection report on Greece was not expected until mid-week and all options remained on the table.

The prospect of extra aid, totalling up to €100bn ($146.4bn) according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, will not answer the question of Greek solvency in the longer term but would buy more time for the regional laggard.

It also leaves the path open for a further rate hike as the European Central Bank looks to rein in inflation, a goal given fresh impetus after euro zone producer prices rose in April.

The data reinforced a belief the ECB will signal a July rate rise to 1.50% at Thursday's meeting.

"This is likely to provide further near-term support to the euro, given that the markets' focus now appears to be turning back to (US/euro zone) interest rate differentials following likely agreement on further support for Greece," Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight, said.

The euro was trading at $1.4614 at 1031 GMT, with a test of $1.50 expected in the coming weeks if the currency can push through resistance at $1.4710.

By 1031 GMT the dollar index had recovered from lows to trade up 0.1 percent.

"The provisos (for more euro gains) are that US equity markets fail to undergo a deeper correction and that Greece's political opposition does not scupper fresh austerity measures," BNP Paribas strategists wrote in a report.

Greece's cabinet will debate the austerity plans on Monday as popular protests swell and Prime Minister George Papandreou seeks to avoid the fate of socialist peers in bailed-out peripheral peer Portugal, which voted in a new centre-right government on Sunday.

Concerns over the outlook for growth in the world's largest economy following dire US non-farm payrolls numbers on Friday sent Asian shares down overnight and drove fresh falls for European stocks.

By 1032 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 had recovered slightly to trade down 0.4%.

After closing out a fifth week of losses on Friday in response to the jobs data, US stock index futures point to a mixed Wall Street open on Monday.

The poor data meant the pressure "is on the downside for European equities", Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital, said.

Emerging market stocks <.MSCIEF> shed 0.1 percent, the MSCI world equity index 0.1% and the Thomson Reuters global stock index 0.2%.

Prospects for reduced energy demand from the United States weighed on crude futures , with the European regional benchmark's July contract down 0.8% by 1034 GMT.

An OPEC meeting this week could see the group lift its oil production targets, although leading member Saudi Arabia is likely to face tough opposition in its push to raise supply from hawks Venezuela and Iran. The jobs data and weaker dollar also fuelled fresh gains for gold, with spot gold at around 1,545 an ounce and targeting technical resistance at around $1,550 an ounce.

Bunds

At 1035 GMT, the Bund future was 23 ticks higher at 125.45, as analysts said the potential for more Greek aid could yet pressure safe-haven debt.

"The bearish bias could continue for a little bit ... We should see further relief as (a second) bailout package is somehow shaping up," said Commerzbank strategist Rainer Guntermann. "This is what the market is starting to anticipate so there's probably some more downward correction in store."

Short-dated Greek debt yields dipped in response to the aid hopes but the lack of clarity over a long-term fix to Greece's problems meant demand was scant, particularly for longer-dated maturities.

Greek two-year yields were 34 basis points lower on the day at 23.26%, while five-year credit default swaps were up 15 bps at 1 385 bps, according to Markit.

($1=.6829 Euro)


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