GLOBAL MARKETS--Euro gets lift from business activity data, China PMI helps emerging stocks

Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:42am EDT

* Euro pulls off 8-month low on euro zone PMI

* Emerging stocks near 17-month high on China PMI

* US tech stocks buoyed by Apple; Facebook at record high

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - The euro pulled off 8-month lows against the dollar on Thursday after the bloc's private sector expanded at its fastest rate in three months in July, and emerging equities hovered near 17-month highs after strong Chinese data.

European stocks edged up too after digesting Markit's Composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) of companies across the euro zone and a good early indicator of overall growth. The overall index rose to 54.0 in July from 52.8, its highest since April. Any number above 50 indicates expansion.

The services sector across the 18-member bloc performed better than any of the 39 economists polled by Reuters had forecast, while manufacturers also reported a stronger month than suggested by the median Reuters forecast

"The activity data offsets some of the weakness we saw last month and that has helped the euro," said Geoff Yu, currency strategist at UBS.

"But there are concerns about domestic growth in the euro zone and possible sanctions on Russia are likely to have an impact."

The euro hit the day's highs at $1.3471, pulling off eight-month lows, while the dollar index dropped from an earlier six-week peak. Against the yen, the U.S. dollar idled at 101.49.

EU states will meet later on Thursday to discuss harsher measures against Russia for its continued involvement in Ukraine and support for pro-Moscow rebels whom Kiev accuses of shooting down a Malaysian Airlines plane last week, killing 298.

European stocks rose 0.2 percent, reversing earlier losses on mixed earnings data and relatively weak manufacturing data from France, the euro zone's second largest economy.

Benchmark emerging market stocks, however, hovered near the previous session's 17-month highs.

The HSBC flash PMI for China, the world's second-largest economy, came in at 52.0 for July, well above forecasts and the highest reading in 18 months. There was also good news on the outlook, with a sub-index of new orders reaching 53.7.

The news helped China's index of leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share jump 1.8 percent to its highest close in more than three months.

Also helping sentiment was a better-than-expected U.S. earnings season. Barclays estimates that of the 22 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported quarterly results since July 1, 64 percent beat earnings expectations and 65 percent beat revenue estimates.

Apple Inc rose 2.6 percent as concerns faded about the iPhone maker's margins, taking the S&P 500 to a record close. Facebook Inc beat forecasts and its stock climbed 5.5 percent after hours.

The prospect of low U.S. interest rates is also helping equities and other riskier assets.

"Investors are relaxed about the outlook for Fed policy and still hunting for yield," said Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale, in a client note.

S&P futures, however, pointed to a slightly lower open on Wall Street.

RUSSIA SANCTIONS

The prospect of more sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis maintained a safety bid for high-rated bonds.

For U.S. Treasuries, investors were buying more liquid shorter-dated paper, nudging two-year yields down to 0.4715 percent. But German Bund yields, which have been trading near record lows on the sanctions threat, edged up to 1.164 percent.

Safe-haven gold eased to 1,297.50 an ounce, close to earlier one-week lows.

Crude oil prices ran into renewed selling after a bounce on Wednesday. Brent crude for September delivery fell 26 cents to $107.77 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 34 cents to $102.77. (Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in London and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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