* Federal Reserve meeting awaited for clues on stimulus
* U.S. jobs report for July a key focus for week
* ECB and Bank of England meetings also awaited
NEW YORK, July 29 U.S. stocks fell and the
dollar hovered near a five-week low on Monday ahead of the
Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, which will be closely
watched for clues on when the U.S. central bank will begin to
slow its bond-buying program.
The U.S. government's monthly jobs report due at the end of
the week was also keeping investors on edge, particularly
because the Fed has made the unemployment rate key to its
decision on paring economic stimulus.
On Wall Street, stocks dipped broadly, with all three major
indexes moving lower.
"I think today we saw some better-than-expected economic
data in Europe and here, and that's got people concerned that we
are going to see a withdrawal of QE," said Stephen Massocca,
managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San
Francisco, referring to the Fed's Quantitative Easing program.
"There's a concern that whatever the FOMC says or does will
lead to a dramatic reaction in the market, much like we saw in
Until recently, investors have interpreted average or weak
economic data as a sign the Fed will continue to stimulate the
economy and put a floor under stock prices. However, the
prospect of a slightly less accommodative Fed in the near future
has increased the market's need for a stronger economy.
An industry group on Monday reported a fall in contracts to
purchase previously owned U.S. homes in June, after they hit a
more than six-year high in May, suggesting that rising mortgage
rates were starting to dampen home sales. The data, however, was
still better than expected.
In addition to the Federal Reserve, the European Central
Bank and the Bank of England also meet this week. The ECB and
the BOE are expected to repeat or refine their "forward
guidance" that borrowing costs will remain extraordinarily low
as long as growth is sub-par and inflation poses no threat.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average ended
down 36.86 points, or 0.24 percent, at 15,521.97. The Standard &
Poor's 500 Index was down 6.32 points, or 0.37 percent,
at 1,685.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 14.02
points, or 0.39 percent, at 3,599.14.
With just three trading days left in the month, the S&P 500
is set to post its best monthly performance since October 2011.
The Nasdaq's advance makes July so far the best month in a year
and a half.
The U.S. payrolls report on Friday is expected to show
185,000 jobs were added in July and a dip in the jobless rate to
7.5 percent. A strong report would support the case for
the Fed to start rolling back its stimulus in September and help
European shares finished the day largely unchanged, with a
fall in bank stocks offsetting gains spurred by two giant
mergers, in the media and pharmaceuticals sectors, which added
to a flurry of M&A activity in recent weeks.
Bank stocks were hit by speculation about a capital hike at
Barclays, whose shares slid 3.5
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
closed up 0.07 percent. The benchmark index has risen 9 percent
since late June.
Publicis and Omnicom announced plans to
merge into the world's biggest advertising group in a $35.1
billion deal. In the pharmaceuticals sector, U.S. group Perrigo
agreed to buy Ireland's Elan.
The MSCI index of world stock markets fell
The dollar was 0.4 percent lower against the yen at
97.83 yen, up 0.1 percent against the euro, while the
dollar index was little changed after touching a
five-week low of 81.785.
Traders said the dollar's small recovery from its low on
Monday was an adjustment of positions ahead of the Fed
statement. A selloff had over the last three weeks left it down
1.7 percent for the month.
"The dollar faces a lot of key event risk in the week ahead
with the release of the U.S. Q2 GDP report and the latest FOMC
policy meeting on Wednesday, followed by the release of the U.S.
employment report for July on Friday," said Lee Hardman,
currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.
In debt markets, German Bund futures edged back into
negative territory in thin trade and euro zone periphery bonds
eased. But investors refrained from placing big bets.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell 6/32 in
price, their yield edging up to 2.587 percent from 2.57 percent
late on Friday. Ten-year yields have ranged from around 2.43
percent to 2.63 percent in the last two weeks, after hitting
two-year highs of 2.76 percent on July 8.
Commodities markets also struggled, although concerns about
supply disruptions kept oil off three-week lows.
Nervousness ahead of Chinese manufacturing data on Thursday hit
copper earlier in the day.
With investors bracing for another round of disappointing
economic news from China, Asian markets were generally weaker.
Japan's Nikkei dropped 3.3 percent to a four-week low.
Investors' jitters were compounded by a stronger yen, which is
negative for exporters. Also hurting stocks were concerns that
plans to increase the country's sales tax - its most significant
fiscal reform in years - could be watered down.