GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, euro fall as Greek meetings loom
* European shares down 1.1 percent after recent rally * Euro dips but holds ground near seven-week high vs dollar * Japan July exports slump most in six months * US stock futures indicate Wall St to open down * Greek meetings, Fed minutes eyed By Nigel Stephenson LONDON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Global shares, the euro and Spanish bonds fell on Wednesday as the prime minister of struggling Greece was set to kick off a series of meetings that could set the course for the euro zone debt crisis. Many big stock markets have risen 15-20 percent since June on expectations of central bank intervention to address the crisis, but with details unclear and obstacles still in the way of action, some investors doubt recent gains are merited. Top European shares were down 1.1 percent by 1214 GMT after falls in Asia on the back of a plunge in Japanese export numbers. London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX were all in negative territory, pulling the global MSCI index down 0.4 percent. U.S. stock index futures were down, indicating a lower open on Wall Street. Minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's most recent meeting, due later on Wednesday, will be scoured for clues on whether the central bank is gearing up for more policy aid as early as its September meeting. However, Europe's battle to overcome its debt problems remains the focus for many global investors. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose country could face a messy bankruptcy without further aid, meets influential policymakers this week and plans to lobby for more time to implement unpopular austerity measures. He meets the head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, in Athens late on Wednesday before travelling to Berlin on Friday to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to Paris the next day to see French President François Hollande. Europe's shares are riding near 13-month highs, but some analysts think the rise is unsustainable. "The recent rally in share prices has not at all been based on the outlook for earnings - in fact completely the opposite. It has been entirely built on hopes of large-scale ECB intervention in euro zone periphery bond markets," said Tammo Greetfeld, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich. The ECB holds its next policy meeting on Sept. 6, the German constitutional court rules on Sept. 12 on the euro zone's permanent bailout fund, and European finance ministers meet on Sept. 14 and 15. "We think the outcome of these factors, in combination with the negative earning revisions, means the current rally will not last and that equities markets will decline," he added. EURO DIPS Crucial to the euro zone's hopes of breaking free of its troubles are new bond buying plans being drawn up by the ECB, which are set to be unveiled in September. Optimism over the plans lifted the euro to a seven-week high against the dollar late on Tuesday, though investors took profit on Wednesday and it traded down 0.2 percent at $1.2452. Bond markets also betrayed investors' nerves. Spanish bond prices, which have risen steadily since late July on prospects of ECB action, edged lower. Spanish 10-year yields, which move inversely with prices, lifted off this week's 10-week low and were last up 1.4 basis points at 6.26 percent. Germany easily sold 5 billion euros of bonds despite paying no interest. "The fact that it came at a zero rate still shows that despite the improvement in risk appetite recently, investors are still concerned (about the euro zone debt crisis)," RIA Capital Markets strategist Nick Stamenkovic said. Oil dropped below $114 a barrel on Wednesday, with investors on edge over Europe, though the market is underpinned by Middle East tensions and their potential for supply disruption. "It's going to be fascinating after the ECB meeting to see what direction the markets take; we've priced in a lot of the good news already, so I certainly don't think we'll see it rally (much), unless we get surprises on the upside," said Ben Le Brun, a Sydney-based market analyst at OptionsXpress.
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