GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar gains, stocks mixed on views of Fed pullback

Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:17am EST

* MSCI World Index on track for worst two weeks since June

* Dollar gains versus euro, but eases from earlier 5-year high vs yen

* Brent crude eases toward $108 a barrel, gold rises

By Wanfeng Zhou

NEW YORK, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar touched a five-year high against the yen and rose against the euro on Friday, while global equity indexes slipped on growing concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve could surprise investors by scaling back its stimulus as early as next week.

Stronger-than-expected U.S. data and a budget deal in Washington have brightened the outlook for the U.S. economy, but are causing jitters in equity markets that have benefited from ample central bank liquidity. The current Thomson Reuters consensus among economists is still for the Fed to begin withdrawing stimulus in March 2014.

"There's a lot of uncertainty going into the meeting and some are talking about a small taper next week, although that is not our view. We still think the Fed will wait until January to make any announcement," said Greg Moore, currency strategist, at TD Securities in Toronto.

Concerns about a possible Fed surprise next week resulted in U.S.-based funds pulling $6.51 billion out of stock mutual funds in the past week, the biggest outflow this year, before the Dec. 17-18 Fed meeting, according to Thomson Reuters Lipper data released on Thursday.

The MSCI world equity index was down 0.1 percent at 391.97 points, taking its losses for the past two weeks to 2.5 percent and putting it on track for its biggest fortnightly loss since June.

The prospect of Fed tapering boosted the U.S. dollar, which gained 0.1 percent to 80.286 against a basket of currencies . The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.3728.

The dollar slipped against the yen after earlier hitting five-year highs as investors reduced bets on the greenback. It last traded at 103.12 yen, down 0.2 percent on the day.

Wall Street stocks were mixed in early trade after a three-day decline. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 10.24 points, or 0.07 percent, to 15,729.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 2.08 points, or 0.12 percent, to 1,773.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.00 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,000.40.

Stocks have come under pressure after strong U.S. jobs and retail sales data boosted confidence the economic recovery is strong enough to withstand a reduction in Fed liquidity.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 touched fresh two-month lows and last traded down 0.06 percent at 1243.97 points.

Emerging markets were also hit, with sell-offs in currencies - including the Indonesian rupiah and the Indian rupee - on concern that tighter Fed policy could sap flows into emerging markets.

"We have taken down our exposure to some of the smaller markets, as the tapering can be a hassle for some emerging-market currencies," said Hans Peterson, the global head of investment strategy at SEB Private Banking.

Given the scale of the market moves in anticipation of the Fed meeting, some analysts said a rebound in equities was possible once the meeting is over, whether the Fed acts or not.

"I think either way we can get a relief rally post the Fed, because either we will get a very small taper and really strong guidance on rates, or we will get no taper," said Alan Higgins, chief investment officer, UK, at Coutts.

Expectations for Fed tapering and prospects for oil ports in eastern Libya to resume exports pressured oil prices.

January Brent was down 45 cents at $108.22 a barrel, following a fall of more than $1 on Thursday. Brent has slipped 3 percent so far this week, the steepest weekly loss since the end of September.

U.S. crude futures for January were down 92 cents at $96.58 a barrel, after rising around $6 in the past two weeks.

Gold rose slightly to $1,233 an ounce after a two-day fall, but sentiment remained fragile.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury notes last traded up 1/32 in price to yield 2.8738 percent.

Two-year German yields hit a three-month high as banks repaid the highest weekly amount since February to the European Central Bank.

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