GLOBAL MARKETS-Wall St steps back, euro recovers but vulnerable

Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:28am EST

* Wall St slightly lower as it consolidates after recent
highs
    * Euro recovers from 2-week low, currency war talk continues
    * Brent crude falls below $118 a barrel
    * Most Asian financial centers shut for Lunar New Year


    By Leah Schnurr
    NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks slipped on Monday,
taking a breather after hitting multi-year highs, while the euro
recovered from a two-week low as talk of currency wars unnerved
investors.
    Encouraging U.S. and Chinese data last week helped push U.S.
equities higher, sending the tech-focused Nasdaq to a 12-year
closing high and the S&P 500 to a five-year peak. 
    With no major economic news on Monday, investors were left
with little reason to push the market higher, for now. Federal
Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen was due to speak about the
economic recovery at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT).
    Less than two months into the year, the S&P 500 is up more
than 6 percent, but the rally has stalled with the S&P and Dow
industrial indices near record highs.
    "Some positives behind the market rally are still there, and
the path of least resistance is likely to be higher," said Steve
Goldman, principal at Goldman Management in Short Hills, New
Jersey.
    In late morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average
 was down 20.86 points, or 0.15 percent, at 13,972.11. The
Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.76 points, or 0.05
percent, at 1,517.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index was
down 2.57 points, or 0.08 percent, at 3,191.30. 
    Google weighed on the market after the company said
in a filing that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is selling
roughly 42 percent of his Google stake. Google's shares fell 0.9
percent to $778.22. 
    The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was
down 3/32, the yield at 1.959 percent. 
    MSCI's world equity index was down 0.2
percent, and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index 
fell 0.7 percent.
    
    Tensions over whether some countries are deliberately trying
to weaken their currencies were heightened, with French Finance
Minister Pierre Moscovici saying euro zone countries need closer
cooperation on exchange rate policy. He said the issue would be
discussed at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers later on
Monday.  
    His comments come after European Central Bank President
Mario Draghi suggested last week that further euro strength
could lead to an interest rate cut. French President Francois
Hollande has also urged the euro zone to set an exchange rate
target.
    "The idea of being interventionist in currencies is not
particularly new. But at the moment, because some of the bigger
players are at the forefront, it feels like a much more pressing
issue for markets," said Daragh Maher, FX strategist at HSBC.
    The Group of Seven major industrial nations may be about to
add its weight to the debate in an effort to cool the rhetoric.
Two G20 officials told Reuters the group was considering making
a statement this week reaffirming a commitment to
"market-determined" exchange rates. 
    G20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Moscow on
Friday and Saturday.
    "The G20 meeting in Moscow this week seems certain to focus
on 'currency wars' but beyond a bland call for countries not to
engage in competitive devaluations, it's hard to see what
concrete steps can be taken at this stage," said Kit Juckes, FX
strategist at Societe Generale in London.
    The fear of competitive devaluations by major economies has
been building since new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began
putting pressure on the country's central bank to take
aggressive easing measures to revive the nation's economy.
    The euro was up 0.4 percent at $1.3420 as speculators bought
into the dip after the currency touched a two-week low of
$1.3325 earlier in Asian trade.
    Brent crude prices trimmed losses after earlier dropping
below $118 a barrel as concern about the euro zone economy
eclipsed stronger-than-expected demand growth in China. Trade
data out of China had sent Brent crude to a nine-month high on
Friday.
    Trade was set to be limited this week as many Asian markets
are shut due to the Chinese New Year.
    "We could see a bit of a pullback today in oil prices in the
absence of any significant external factors, including the lack
of activity in Asia," said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC
Markets.
    Brent crude fell 53 cents to $118.37 a barrel, while
U.S. crude futures gained 56 cents to $96.26.