GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. deadlock drags on dollar, stocks put up a fight

Thu Oct 3, 2013 9:31am EDT

* Dollar on defensive as US govt stays shut, debt ceiling looms

* Stocks, bonds see silver lining in cbank stimulus, Chinese data

* Wall Street seen opening 0.2 pct lower

By Marc Jones

LONDON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - The dollar hovered at an eight-month low on Thursday as the U.S. government shutdown dragged on, though stocks drew comfort from the view that major central banks may now have to keep monetary policy super-loose for longer.

Also aiding sentiment was a hit of solid euro zone data and an upbeat survey on China's huge services sector, which helped balance disappointing manufacturing figures earlier in the week.

Markit's euro zone services Purchasing Managers Index, a monthly survey of businesses, rose to 52.2 in September from August's 50.7, while retail sales in the bloc posted their second robust monthly rise on the trot.

That left the euro pushing a new eight-month high against the dollar, which was sapped by the lack of progress in U.S. budget talks.

U.S. jobless claims came in below economists' expectations, but only briefly lifted the dollar against the yen.

And with no obvious opportunities for a breakthrough on the government shutdown on Thursday, stock futures pointed to the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrials opening down around 0.2 percent and facing the prospect of a ninth session in 11 in the red.

"The U.S. fiscal uncertainty is still the main thing that is weighing on stocks," said Societe Generale strategist Alvin Tan, adding that the dollar's weakness and the euro's rise were down to a combination of factors.

"It was a bit of a follow-on from the ECB meeting yesterday where Draghi - we think wrongly - was perceived by the market as giving the green light to euro strength. And this morning we have had some good data."

After Thursday's jobless claims data markets would normally now be gearing up for the more important non-farm payrolls figures later in the month, but with the government statistics department part of the U.S. shutdown the data is likely to be delayed.

World stocks were holding up overall despite all the U.S. uncertainty.

Asian shares ex-Japan ended 0.1 percent higher and European stocks inched up ahead of the U.S. restart as London's FTSE and the second day of outperformance by Italian shares helped offset weakness in Paris and Madrid.

BUDGET WRANGLING

A meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders late on Wednesday produced only blame and counter-blame, dimming hopes of an early end to the budget impasse.

So far, investors have been betting a budget deal would be reached in time to avoid lasting damage to the economy, although a potentially riskier fight over the U.S. debt ceiling looms.

Philip Marey, a senior U.S. economist at Rabobank, said worries will only intensify the nearer Washington gets to the Oct. 17 deadline when it will effectively run out of cash - raising prospects of an unprecedented default which the market for now assumes is unthinkable.

"I think at the most 100 basis points (drop in Treasury yields) but more likely 70 or 80 basis points." For stock markets like the benchmark S&P 500. "It could be something like 100 points," he added.

BONDS HOVER

Already one effect has been to further cloud the outlook for when the Fed will start scaling back bond purchases.

Eric Rosengren, head of the Federal Bank of Boston, said on Wednesday that the government shutdown could further delay a tapering because of a lack of official data on the economy.

That only amplified the startling swing in market thinking about the future course of U.S. interest rates. Just a month ago, the futures market had predicted the Fed funds rate would be up around 1.465 percent by the end of 2015. Now it implies a rate of just 0.745 percent.

That in turn has helped drag yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note down, with them last at 2.6428 percent, from a September peak of 2.99 percent.

Bund yields, which move inversely to prices, inched up in trading thinned by a German public holiday while most other euro zone yields also edged higher as the upbeat euro zone data left investors favouring shares.

In contrast to the increasingly dovish outlook for U.S. rates, the European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday left interest rates unchanged and gave no hint it was considering any imminent policy easing despite insisting the option remains.

The dollar's diminishing yield advantage saw it slide to a new eight-month trough against a basket of currencies going as low as 79.740 before clawing back to last trade at 79.855.

At the same time the euro climbed to an eight-month high at $1.3625, bringing it in sight the 2013 peak of $1.3711 though it had settled back at $1.3600 as U.S. trading picked up.

"At face value, the commentary from the ECB sounded rather dovish," said BNP Paribas economist Ken Wattret. "It was apparently not dovish enough, however, with markets continuing to view the ECB's position as one of 'all talk and no action'."

KIWI SHOOTS UP

The dollar did gain some traction on the yen, but only because Japanese investors were selling their currency for euros. Thus while the dollar steadied at 97.61 yen, the euro rose more than half a yen to 132.88.

A notable southern hemisphere mover was the New Zealand dollar, which rallied after the country's central bank said larger increases in interest rates would be needed if new limits on mortgage lending failed to cool the housing market.

The kiwi jumped to $0.8308, pulling well away from a low of $0.8194 plumbed on Wednesday.

Trading was very choppy in commodity markets, though the lower dollar tended to support prices.

Gold steadied at $1,310 ounce, having bounced from a low of $1,278.24 on Wednesday while copper futures wobbled after gains in Asia to stand at $7,255.50 a tonne.

Oil prices held their ground after a jump on Wednesday. Brent crude for November shrugged off some early softness to steady at $109.20 a barrel, though the weak dollar saw U.S. crude slip 32 cents to $103.78.