GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro on the ropes after dive in inflation
* Euro remains under pressure after biggest fall vs dollar in 6 mths * European shares lower but head for 4th week of gains * Solid China manufacturing data limits Asian share losses * Dollar index at 2-week peak after US data suggests economy resilient * Wall Street expected to inch higher By Marc Jones LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The euro tumbled to a two-week low on Friday after a plunge in euro zone inflation left markets suddenly eyeing the possibility of an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank next week. European shares saw a subdued end to what looked to be a fourth week of gains, but the combination of Thursday's surprise dive in inflation to just 0.7 percent and a revitalised dollar kept the main focus on the fragile euro. After its biggest fall in six months in the previous session, the shared currency shed a further 0.6 percent to $1.3513, leaving it flirting with its biggest weekly drop since July last year. "It is clear that there has been a major sentiment change on the euro," said John Hardy, head of FX strategy at Saxo bank in Copenhagen. "The ECB's single mandate has always been on inflation so this gives Draghi and co further reason to do something at next week's meeting. We see considerable further downside, the likes of euro/dollar back into the old range, down towards $1.30." A handful of big banks including UBS, RBS and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch revised their calls saying they now expect a rate cut next week and the pressure on the euro increased after banks made their biggest repayment of ECB crisis loans since April. The move was also amplified as the dollar continued to kick away from a recent nine-month low, boosted by upbeat U.S. data overnight that added to the debate on future Fed stimulus. U.S. S&P E-mini futures edged up about 0.2 percent, pointing to a slightly higher start on Wall Street, after the S&P 500 Index closed down about 0.4 percent on Thursday but still gained 4.5 percent for the month. Stock markets across Europe were between flat and down 0.5 percent, ahead of the U.S. restart, pegged back by signs of third-quarter weakness at some major European firms. At the same time, the return of bets on an ECB rate cut saw euro zone government bonds extend this week's gains. TAPER TALK Markets' focus remains heavily on U.S. monetary policy and how soon the Federal Reserve will begin tapering back its $85 billion a month support programme, having delayed a move in September. The ISM survey of manufacturing for October will give investors the latest temperature reading on the state of the U.S. economy after some upbeat PMI data on Thursday. "If the ISM report is better than expected, it could add to revived tapering expectations, and U.S. yields and the dollar could go up and stocks could go down," said Masashi Murata, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo. Not all players are convinced that this week's U.S. newsflow heralds a shift in monetary policy expectations, given the disruption caused by last month's Federal shutdown. "The existence of noise in the October data will likely make it difficult for the Fed to gather enough evidence to start tapering in December," strategists at Barclays said in a note. CHINA REASSURES In Asian trading, reassuring signals on China's factory activity offered support to the region's markets , though Tokyo's Nikkei finished at a one-week low as the yen strengthened against the euro. Among commodities, gold dropped to $1,313 an ounce leaving it at its lowest in nearly two weeks, hurt by sharp losses in the previous session from month-end profit-taking, the strong U.S. economic data and the higher dollar. Copper got a lift from the China data, rising to $7,282 a tonne and back toward a one-week peak of $7,300 hit on Thursday. But it was not enough to help oil, with Brent falling back to $107.8 a barrel as U.S. crude slid to $95.72. "There were reports that some of the ports in Libya were reopening and any signs that that oil is coming back online is going to hit the oil price," said Abhishek Deshpande, oil market analyst for Nataxis in London. "There are also signs of generally lower season demand for oil at the moment as China's refineries go into maintenance."
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