* European, Asian shares gain, S&P 500 set to touch record
* Dollar reaches 10-week peak vs yen; euro steady before ECB
* U.S. data more encouraging; improved jobs report expected
* ECB under pressure to ease, but analysts doubt move this
By Marc Jones
LONDON, April 2 World stocks added a bit to
their recent rally and the safe-haven yen sagged to a 10-week
low on Wednesday, as investors focused on the positive in a
mixed bag of global economic data.
Trading was largely cautious before Thursday's meeting of
the European Central Bank and Friday's U.S. jobs numbers, either
of which could move markets significantly.
Wall Street was expected to stick close to Monday's record
high when trading begins. Before the U.S. opening,
European stocks clung to 0.2 percent gains as they
tried to record a seventh day of gains.
Euro zone inflation slid to just 0.5 percent this month,
leading investors to speculate the ECB will soon loosen policy.
Messages from policymakers have been mixed, though. On
Tuesday, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio told a news
conference that low inflation was a concern but denied deflation
was a threat. That was taken to mean a move by the bank was
unlikely on Thursday.
The euro got a modest lift overnight but flattened out
during European trading to stand at $1.3782. That was still a
shade higher than last time the ECB met, a fact that won't have
gone unnoticed at the bank, which has cited the strains of a
strong euro as one reason it might cut rates.
"All the money that ran away at the height of the crisis is
now coming back in, and that flow, as well as driving this
periphery (bond) rally, is keeping the euro high," said Luke
Bartholomew, an Aberdeen Asset Management fixed income and FX
Greek and Portuguese bonds continued to riding the wave of
optimism that has taken their governments' borrowing costs to
post-euro-crisis lows, after almost three years of economic
rehabilitation under EU/IMF bailout programmes.
Greek bond yields, a proxy of borrowing
costs, hit a new post-crisis low amid talk it would try to
resume selling bonds. In addition, German Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble said Berlin would support further financial
aid if Greece needs it.
Financial markets now appear to have recovered after
stumbling earlier this year. A cutback in U.S. monetary
stimulus, the geopolitical tug-of-war over Ukraine and signs the
Chinese economy was slowing all weighed on markets.
Even sluggishness in China is now considered favourable,
because it bolsters the case for stimulus. There are signs
Beijing is hastening infrastructure spending in response.
Chinese state media reported on Wednesday that several
cities may relax restrictions on home ownership, lifting stocks
on the CSI300 property sub index 4 percent.
"Previously, the government repeatedly talked about
controlling the property market, but now they aren't saying
anything about this and instead there have been signs of easing
policies," said Tian Weidong, head of research in Kaiyuan
Securities in Xi'an.
Elsewhere in the region, MSCI's broadest index of
Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan crept up 0.4
percent to a fresh four-month high, South Korea made a
three-month peak while a weaker yen helped recent
underperformer, the Nikkei, jump 1.7 percent.
U.S. economic news has whetted risk appetite. After
encouraging manufacturing and car sales data on Tuesday, ADP
jobs figures showed the pace of hiring picked up in March. The
closely followed U.S. payrolls report on Friday is expected to
see 200,000 jobs added.
"Things are progressing slowly and there is now a strand of
dollar strength, as people say this is where the U.S. data gets
a bit better," said National Australia Bank strategist Gavin
WILL THEY, WON'T THEY?
The brighter tone put pressure the long-end of the U.S.
Treasury curve, where yields on 10-year paper rose 2 basis
points to the highest in a week at 2.7899 percent.
For Europe, A Reuters poll of 22 euro money-market traders
found 18 expected no change in the ECB's 0.25 percent
refinancing rate this week.
The euro stuttered to a halt at $1.3788 as it tried
for its fourth straight session of gains. It also gained as the
yen softened, reaching 143.30. The dollar meanwhile
held near a 10-week top against the Japanese currency.
Among commodities, Brent crude was flat at $105.54 a
barrel. It had shed over 2 percent overnight after Libyan rebels
blocking oil ports hinted at a deal with Tripoli, which could
U.S. crude eased 50 cents to $99.23 a barrel. It also
lost around 2 percent on Tuesday, amid expectations domestic
inventories would grow.
Spot gold recovered to $1,293.02 an ounce having slid
to a seven-week low of $1,277.29 on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Larry