GLOBAL MARKETS-China, Ukraine worries weigh on stocks; euro hits 2-1/2-yr high

Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:23am EDT

* Global stock index edges down with U.S. equities

* Ukraine, China slowdown and copper rout sap risk appetite

* Russian shares slide to lowest in over 4 years

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - World stock indexes edged lower on Thursday on lingering concerns over China's economy and tensions in Ukraine, while the euro hit a new 2-1/2-year high against the dollar.

Copper resumed its decline, a day after it hit a four-year low at $6,376.25 per tonne on worries about slowing growth in China.

U.S. stocks dipped in early trading after opening slightly higher on better-than-expected data on retail sales and the labor market.

China's industrial output growth came in below forecasts for the combined January/February period, with retail sales also weaker than expected, stoking worries that growth could slow as Beijing pushes for economic reforms.

Tensions in Ukraine also kept investors on edge. Germany's Angela Merkel warned Moscow it risked "massive" political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Ukraine, saying Western leaders were ready to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary.

"These hot spots are still of concern to people, the Ukraine and China being wobbly," said Stephen Massocca, managing director, at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 21.32 points or 0.13 percent, to 16,318.76, the S&P 500 lost 2.79 points or 0.15 percent, to 1,865.41 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 13.315 points or 0.31 percent, to 4,310.017.

The MSCI global stock market index was down 0.1 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.4 percent.

Russia's RTS stock index fell 1.2 percent to its lowest point in over four years, while five-year credit default swaps rose 14 basis points to their highest since June 2012.

The euro reached $1.3967, just under psychological resistance at $1.40, and the euro was last up 0.4 percent on the day.

The euro zone economy seems to be picking up steam and investors are betting the European Central Bank will not ease policy further to counter deflation risks, even though ECB policymaker Benoit Coeure reiterated the bank's readiness to act if real interest rates did not fall.

"The policy messages and data support the euro and we think that will allow it to continue to push higher from here," Ian Stannard, a strategist at Morgan Stanley in London, said.

COPPER FALLS

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) traded at $6,461 a tonne in official rings, down 0.7 percent from a close of $6,505 on Wednesday. Prices hit a 44-month low of $6,376.25 in intraday trade on Wednesday before recovering at the close to post their first daily gain since Friday.

After a tumble in copper of around 7.5 percent so far this month, investors are worried about a possible unravelling of Chinese loan deals using the metal - whose many industrial uses make it sensitive to global economic health - as collateral.

"The China economy is slowing quite sharply, in our view ... (although) the lack of inflation and slowing growth does open the door for policy easing," Gerard Lane, equity strategist at Shore Capital, said in a note.

Geopolitical tensions supported the U.S. bond market. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note last traded with a yield of 2.716 percent, marking a slight decline from late Wednesday, when the yield was at 2.726 percent. Bond yields move inversely to their prices.

OIL MIXED

The European benchmark Brent crude oil was down 26 cents at $107.76 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures were up 15 cents at $98.14.

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