GLOBAL MARKETS-World shares firm as markets await US data rush

Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:10am EDT

* World shares firm as Fed expected to delay stimulus taper

* European shares at five-year highs, Asian markets gain

* Dollar index steady near 8-month low, gains on yen

* Tuesday's Sept U.S. jobs report eyed

* Gold near 1-1/2-week peak after best week since Aug

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Global shares held at five-year highs on Monday as markets awaited a backlog of U.S. economic data that could give further clues on when the Federal Reserve might start scaling down its stimulus programme.

September's non-farm payrolls report due on Tuesday, is seen as particularly important and some investors were positioning for a strong reading, pushing the dollar up against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc.

Many in the markets think the Fed will delay trimming its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme, which has supported riskier assets like shares, until the economic impact of this month's partial U.S. government shutdown becomes clearer.

However, the prospect that the deluge of data due to emerge from reopened government agencies - including the jobs report and retail sales and factory output data for September - could influence that outlook has convinced many to hold their fire.

If the non-farm payrolls report beats forecasts, it could renew the debate over whether the Fed would still taper this year or not, injecting volatility into the markets.

"If the jobs number beats expectations and is backed up by good retail sales and durable goods data, we could see some speculation of Fed tapering return," said Ian Gunner, portfolio manager at Altana Hard Currency Fund.

Economists polled by Reuters expect jobs growth of around 180,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.

The dollar was up 0.4 percent against the lower-yielding Japanese currency to 98.07 yen, leaving it closer to a three-week high of 99.01 yen set last Thursday.

It was virtually unchanged against a basket of major currencies though at 79.69, not far from an eight-month low of 79.478 touched on Friday.

SHARES FIRM

U.S. stock index futures signaled some early gains for Wall Street, though investors were likely to be cautious after the broad S&P 500 index set a new record high on Friday and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index reached its best level since 2000.

MSCI's world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 countries, hovered at the five-year high reached last week after a last-minute deal to temporarily end the U.S. budget standoff pushed back the threat of an unprecedented debt default and sparked a widespread relief rally.

European shares briefly touched a fresh five-year high before also settling at largely unchanged levels, with a batch of strong earnings reports adding to the market's solid floor.

Although the European third-quarter results season is less than a tenth of the way through, early reports have revealed earnings on average running at 3.3 percent above forecasts, in contrast to a broadly in-line performance in the United States, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

"Unless the macro data suddenly turns negative I don't see the risk of a major drawdown in equities," said Peter Garnry, equity strategist at Saxo Bank.

Consumer appliance and healthcare giant Philips was the main standout on Monday, tripling its quarterly net profit after emerging from a long period of product rationalisation and investment in emerging markets. The results sent its shares surging more than 6 percent.

Asian shares outside Japan earlier posted a 0.2 percent rise to reach a five-month high. While Australia's S&P/ASX 200 hit a five-year peak, helped by last week's strong data from China - Australia's biggest export market.

FED SUPPORT

The prospect of the Fed delaying any decision on tapering until next year, if bolstered by this week's data, was seen as favouring higher-yielding currencies like the Australian and Canadian dollars, and other riskier assets like commodities.

"We're going to see over the coming weeks quite a positive environment, more of a risk-on environment, starting to develop," said Ian Stannard, head of European foreign exchange strategy for Morgan Stanley.

But after last week's sharp price moves, investors in these markets were also cautious.

Gold was flat at $1,315.30 an ounce having climbed nearly 4 percent last week to record its biggest weekly rise in two months.

Brent crude oil even dipped slightly below $110 a barrel as investors waited for the resumption of U.S. oil data along with the other economic numbers.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration was due to release weekly oil data for the week ended Oct. 11 later on Monday. Its normal release schedule will resume after that, and oil data for last week will be released on Wednesday.

"The market's just in a wait-and-see mode ... The thing on most traders' minds is what sort of story is going to be told by the U.S. data now that it's going to be released again," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

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

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