* Concerns grow over currency policies ahead of G20
* S&P 500 hits highest level since November 2007; Dow off
* G20 meeting in focus after G7 statement confusion
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Feb 13 World stock markets struggled
for traction on Wednesday, while currency trading was volatile
ahead of the G20 meeting in Moscow later in the week.
European shares were higher, but a measure of world markets
was little changed and the Dow Jones industrial average fell
back from the 14,000 level despite the S&P 500 touching its
highest since November 2007.
U.S. equities have started the year on a strong note, helped
by growth in corporate earnings and an early January rally after
the full brunt of the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax
hikes and spending cuts was averted. A lack of recent catalysts
has kept gains more limited and the market has slowly ground
higher on low volume.
"There is a general upward bias, but right now we're at the
top of the range we've been in, so we could struggle to advance
further," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn
Partners in Chicago.
The Dow was off 57.37 points, or 0.41 percent, at
13,961.33. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.94
points, or 0.06 percent, at 1,518.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 4.56 points, or 0.14 percent, at 3,191.05.
MSCI's world equity index edged down 0.01
percent, while the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top
European companies gained 0.3 percent.
The euro turned lower against the dollar and Japanese yen.
The euro had earlier traded higher against the yen after Russian
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said the yen had
definitely been over-valued and that "there are no signs"
Japan's monetary authorities were intervening.
Currencies have been volatile after a G7 statement earlier
this week on exchange rates, designed to calm talk of a currency
war, instead triggered fresh concerns.
The G7 on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to
market-determined exchange rates and said fiscal and monetary
policies must not be directed at devaluing currencies - comments
which at first were seen as supporting the recent weakness in
However, an official from the group, which links the United
States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, later
said the statement was meant to signal concern about the yen's
"Investors overall are wary to push the yen much lower ahead
of the G20 meeting and there is a bias for some give-back after
the massive decline of the yen over the past few months," said
Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign
Exchange in Washington, D.C.
The euro last traded at $1.3440, down 0.1 percent on
the day, and was at 125.67 yen, down 0.1 percent.
Analysts were also concerned about an apparent lack of
consensus at the G7 level in tackling the risks of competitive
currency devaluations as countries try to spur growth through
expansionist domestic monetary policies.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was
down 7/32, the yield at 2.0042 percent.
JAPAN CENTER STAGE
The confusion sown by the G7 statement has heightened the
risk that policymakers will use a G20 meeting in Moscow on
Friday and Saturday to make further comments, either about the
yen or the risk of wider currency devaluations.
"Presumably on the weekend there will be something that
talks about the pace of moves in the yen. That's what the market
is expecting now," said Geoff Kendrick, FX strategist at Nomura.
The focus of the current concerns in the currency markets is
Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is pushing
for aggressive policies by the Bank of Japan to beat deflation
through monetary expansion.
Anticipation of the bolder measures has sent the yen down
nearly 20 percent against the dollar since November, sparking
comments from policymakers in the euro area about the impact on
the common currency as the region struggles with a recession.
"Everyone would love a weaker currency, but it's a zero sum
game. If you weaken the yen someone else has to suffer a
stronger currency," said Dixon.
However, he added it was not just about the yen as there
were concerns about the U.S. Federal Reserve's aggressive
monetary expansion, which has weakened the dollar, and the Swiss
central bank's move to cap a rise in the franc against the euro.