GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, euro checked by Cyprus bailout nerves

Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:16am EDT

* European shares steady after recent Cyprus-fuelled declines

* Euro remains near four-month low

* Bunds steady near three-week highs

By Marc Jones

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - European shares and the euro were flat on Tuesday, losing early gains as investors fretted that Cyprus's raid on bank deposits could become the template for future euro zone bailouts.

Wall Street was expected to see a rebound from Monday's losses, meanwhile, with a flurry of data expected to trump euro zone concerns by supporting hopes of a gradual U.S. recovery.

Banks in Cyprus remain closed following the country's 10 billion euro bailout agreed at the weekend, but comments from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the new head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, have stripped investors of the appetite for the kind of rebound that has followed other rescue deals.

Dijsselbloem said on Monday that the tactic used in Cyprus of getting wealthier savers and uninsured bondholders to bear heavy losses represented a new template for resolving regional banking problems.

After a choppy morning, top European shares and MSCI's index of world shares, which tracks 6000 stocks in 45 countries, were both flat on the day ahead of the Wall Street restart.

Investors continue to weigh the possibility that the euro zone crisis could escalate if savers in other debt-strained countries such as Spain and Italy pull money out of their own banks as a precaution following the grab on deposits in Cyprus.

"Dijsselbloem comment's will stay the focus of markets," said ABN Amro economist Joost Beaumont.

"Markets are recovering a little bit, and with the ECB (European Central Bank) now the lender of last resort it is hard to see a return to the depths of the crisis, but it is difficult to see a sharp rebound."

By 1245 GMT, Paris's CAC-40 was leading the way with gains of 0.6 percent. London's FTSE 100 and Frankfurt's DAX were up 0.2 percent, though fears of tough conditions being attached to future bailouts were being felt in Madrid, where the IBEX fell 1.5 percent.

The decision to seize savings in Cyprus, as well as impose capital controls to prevent mass withdrawals once banks do reopen, has added a new dimension to the euro zone's three year-long crisis.

Top ECB policymaker Benoit Coeure tried to assuage the concerns caused by Dijsselbloem's comments, stressing the banking crisis in Cyprus was a unique case.

"I think Mr. Dijsselbloem was wrong to say what he said. The Cyprus experience is not a model for the rest of Europe because the situation had reached a level which cannot be compared with any other country," Coeure said in a radio interview.

CAUTION AHEAD

Earlier, shares in Asia had edged lower but Wall Street was expected to rebound by around 0.2 percent as a 5.7 percent climb in durable goods orders in February got a busy day of U.S. data off to positive start..

Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders to rise 3.8 percent after a 4.9 percent fall in January.

Investors in the bond and oil markets remained cautious. Safe-haven German government bonds held near highs hit the previous session, while Brent crude dipped back to $108 a barrel, near last week's three-month low.

Alongside the fallout from Cyprus, euro zone investors are also facing a lengthy spell of political uncertainty in Italy and an increasing divergence between strong European economies like Germany and its struggling neighbours.

French consumer confidence underscored the last of those worries, falling more than expected in March as worries about surging unemployment mounted.

Having tumbled to a four-month low on Monday following Dijsselbloem's comments, the euro remained weak at $1.2860 against the dollar. Measured against a basket of currencies, the dollar was also little changed.

EURO WEAKNESS

The euro has largely held its ground during the recent turmoil in Cyprus, but the likelihood of depositors being hit in future bank bailouts could drive it lower, analysts say.

"The developments yesterday were quite negative for the euro as it looks to be a bit of a change in policy approach within Europe with respect to bailouts. They seem to be putting the emphasis onto investors rather than taxpayers," said Ian Stannard, head of European FX strategy at Morgan Stanley.

"That is going to keep the euro under pressure as it could well deter foreign investors from returning to peripheral European assets."

Gold, which typically benefits from economic uncertainty and has rallied during the Cyprus turmoil, fell back below $1,600 an ounce.

The ECB's promise to keep the euro together has largely limited the fallout from Cyprus's problems and Italy's political deadlock, and many economists see little reason for that to change in the near term.

"The reaction of the market has demonstrated clearly that the kind of problems in Cyprus could be contained, and even an escalation of the crisis with all the possible outcomes from other periphery countries has not really dented market confidence," Commerzbank gold analyst Eugen Weinberg said.

"We see prices consolidating at current levels around the key $1,600 mark."

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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