June 6, 2018 / 12:33 PM / 2 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro boosted but bonds and stocks sag after hawkish ECB comments

* Euro hits 10-day high after ECB comments, pressuring dollar

* U.S. stocks set to open higher

* Italy stocks, bonds still weak

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* For a live blog on European stocks, type LIVE/ in an Eikon news window (Adds details)

By Alasdair Pal

LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) - The euro rose to a 10-day high on Wednesday after hawkish comments from the European Central Bank, putting more upward pressure on bond yields and sinking some stocks as worries over Italy also weighed.

Robust growth is making the central bank increasingly confident that inflation is on its way back to target, ECB chief economist Peter Praet said on Wednesday, raising the likelihood it may use a meeting next week to reveal more about the end of its bond-buying programme.

Praet’s comments supported the euro, which rose 0.5 percent to 1.1769, weakening the dollar and looking likely in part to help U.S. stocks, which were set to open higher.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent as trade tensions with China also eased, while the technology-focused NASDAQ was set to hit a record for the second day in a row.

In Europe bonds sold off, with the yield on Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond up nearly eight basis points to 0.44 percent, on track for their biggest daily rise in nearly a year.

The continent’s benchmark Stoxx 600 index was flat, with interest rate-sensitive consumer staples and utilities stocks among the heaviest fallers.

Italian stocks underperformed, falling as much as 1.4 percent before recovering some losses to trade down 0.3 percent.

Investors said the new government’s big-spending fiscal plans, a major worry for markets over the last few weeks, were unlikely to be helped by the ECB tightening its own policy.

Italian borrowing costs also rose more than most in Europe, with the 10-year yield rising 20 basis points to 2.96 percent.

“Profligate ECB bond buying in the face of profligate Italian fiscal policy is an interesting conflict,” said Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management. “We believe the bond buying programme will conclude by the end of this year.”

MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up 0.27 percent, mainly as a result of a strong showing from Asian stocks. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.68 percent.

DOLLAR FALLS, EM STEADY

The euro’s rise put pressure on the U.S. dollar index , that measures performance against six major currencies, with the main weighting given to the euro. The index fell 0.3 percent.

The Mexican peso steadied on Wednesday, after falling to its weakest since February 2017 late on Tuesday after the United States raised the possibility of turning negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement into bilateral talks.

Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow also revived the possibility that the president will seek to replace NAFTA with bilateral deals with Canada and Mexico.

The threat of rising trade protectionism has already taken a toll on global trade and could increase risks to growth, ANZ analysts Daniel Been and Giulia Lavinia Specchia said in a note.

“Against this backdrop, we believe financial markets will become even more sensitive to bad news,” they wrote, while recommending a defensive stance on risk-taking.

Most other emerging currencies strengthened against the dollar, already lower versus the strong euro.

MSCI’s emerging market currency index ticked higher, rising 0.1 percent.

Oil prices steadied on Wednesday after Venezuela raised the prospect of a halt to some crude exports, easing worries about oversupply after reports that the U.S. government had asked Saudi Arabia and some other producers to increase output. Brent crude was broadly flat at $75.31 per barrel. (Reporting by Alasdair Pal, Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo, Editing by Andrew Heavens and Hugh Lawson)

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