October 27, 2017 / 11:48 AM / a year ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Dovish ECB, earnings, lift European shares to five-month high

* Earnings in tech and banks underpin stocks

* Euro set for one of biggest weekly drops this year

* Trades on U.S. fiscal outlook, Fed chair talk boost dollar

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - European shares hit a five-month high on Friday, underpinned by strong earnings and a sharp drop in the euro a day after the European Central Bank took a cautious route to scaling back stimulus.

The dollar kicked higher on signs that U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing ahead with tax cuts and could install a more hawkish head of the Federal Reserve.

Strong earnings boosted bank shares including UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland, while tech stocks gained following upbeat reports from U.S. bellwethers Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon.com.

Europe’s STOXX technology index rose over 1 percent to its highest in almost 16 years. The wider pan-European FTSEurofirst climbed 0.5 percent and euro zone blue chips were set for their ninth straight week of gains. Wall Street futures were set to open higher.

“European equities will benefit from the continuation of ample financial conditions, with strong GDP growth in the fourth quarter expected to help further corporate earnings gains,” said Sandrine Perret, European Strategist at Credit Suisse.

“Germany could benefit in particular, helped by still buoyant economic growth.”

Europe’s gains also pushed the MSCI world equity index back into positive territory for the day, though it was still on course for its first weekly fall in seven weeks, mainly driven by weaker emerging markets.

The euro hit a three-month low of $1.1616, down 0.2 percent on the day having notched its biggest one-day drop of year on Thursday following the ECB’s announcement.

While the central bank said it would cut its asset purchases in half from the start of next year, it will stretch the stimulus programme out towards late 2018 and rate hikes are even further off..

On bond markets, the premium investors demand to hold Spanish government bonds over benchmark German peers held near one-month lows on Friday, as investors appeared to look beyond a parliamentary vote for Madrid to impose direct rule over Catalonia in a crisis over an independence push.

Spanish markets have experienced bouts of volatility since Catalonia voted for secession on Oct 1 in a referendum declared illegal by Spanish courts.

“For investors, it is a case of waiting to see exactly as and when an election is called (in Catalonia), whether that is the current Catalan government calling it themselves or having it imposed upon them by Madrid,” Rabobank strategist Matt Cairns said.

“The market is likely to welcome that because the ability for (Catalan leader Carles) Puigdemont to hold on to power looks tenuous at best.”

The yield on Spain’s 10-year government bond, which fell sharply on Thursday, was a shade lower at 1.56 percent and the gap over Germany was close to its tightest level in a month at 114 bps.


Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.3 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat, while Hong Kong and South Korean shares gained 0.7 percent.

The dollar index, which tracks it against a basket of six major rivals, added 0.3 percent to 94.923, trading at three-month highs and on track for a weekly gain of 1.1 percent.

It traded above parity against the Swiss franc for the first time since mid-May, reaching a high of 1.00245 francs per dollar.

Investor attention remains on candidates to head the U.S. Federal Reserve when Janet Yellen’s term expires in February.

Trump’s search for the next central bank chair has come down to Fed Governor Jerome Powell and Stanford University economist John Taylor, News website Politico on Thursday cited one source as saying. A White House official told Reuters no final decision had been made.

The Australian dollar fell to 3 1/2-month low of $0.7625 after the conservative coalition government lost its one-seat parliamentary majority. It was last 0.2 percent lower at $0.7646.

A emerging market selloff was in danger of snowballing meanwhile, as budget woes in South Africa sent the rand to an 11-month low, Turkey’s lira dropped for a sixth day and EM bond and stock markets racked up a second week of losses.

In commodities, Brent crude futures held firm after closing at a 27-month high on Thursday as the market focused on Saudi Arabian comments about ending a global supply glut, brushing off an unexpected increase in U.S. inventories and high U.S. production and exports.

Brent was little changed at $59.18 a barrel, just below Thursday’s high of $59.55. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fetched $52.57 a barrel, almost flat from Thursday’s six-month closing high.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Danilo Masoni in MILAN; Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet

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