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World stocks pause from rally as dollar rises

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World stocks weakened on Monday as renewed European debt concerns and a sign of recovery for the U.S. labor market sent the euro reeling versus the dollar, while gold surged on inflation worry.

Newspaper reports raising fresh doubts about Ireland’s ability to fund itself internationally have weighed on the euro and caused spreads between Irish and German government bond yields to widen.

Skepticism over Europe’s fiscal troubles eased pressure on the dollar, which had endured weeks of selling on expectations of huge monetary easing by the Federal Reserve. Friday’s stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs report eased concern that the Fed would go beyond the $600 billion in Treasury purchases on which it decided.

“We’re finally seeing the market turn its gaze away from Fed easing and toward these ongoing problems in peripheral Europe,” said Matthew Strauss, senior strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

“Even before the Fed meeting, spreads for Ireland, Greece and Portugal were widening, and now that the Fed has indicated what it will do, the market is starting to trade on these worries.”

While Ireland does not face any immediate liquidity demands -- it is fully funded until the middle of next year -- there are real concerns that if Prime Minister Brian Cowen fails to get his 2011 budget passed in December, the country will be unable to return to the bond markets, as planned, in January.

World stocks as measured by MSCI .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.2 percent after rising last week to levels last reached prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Trading in Tokyo was poised to open slightly lower, with the December futures contract that trades in Chicago for the Nikkei 225 down 20 points at 9,705.

Spot gold surged to a record high $1,410.30 an ounce as investors bought the precious metal as an inflation hedge. Gold has risen almost 6 percent since just before the Fed detailed its plans for more “quantitative easing.”

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Remote/Kirill Iordansky

“People have gotten to the point that they have lost confidence in the fiat currencies and they are choosing gold as their currency of choice,” said Michael Daly, gold specialist at futures broker PFGBest.

On Wall Street, stocks maintained an inverse relationship with the dollar, which had slumped to a 9-1/2 month low against the euro on concern the Fed stimulus would fuel inflation.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 37.24 points, or 0.33 percent, to 11,406.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX edged lower by 2.60 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,223.25 and the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC managed a gain of 1.07 points to 2,580.05.

The S&P 500 had risen for five straight weeks and nine of the past 10, supported by the Fed’s efforts to lower interest rates and reinvigorate a sluggish economy. With valuations at recent highs, investors booked profits.

U.S. financial stocks were among the biggest losers. The S&P financial index .GSPF declined 0.77 percent, weighed down by a 0.7 percent decline in shares of Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N and a 1.6 percent drop in State Street Corp STT.N.

The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares slipped 0.4 percent, with investors cashing in on six-month high prices reached on Friday.

“Some degree of profit-taking doesn’t come as a surprise after a gain of about 15 percent since late August. The market might lack a little bit of direction for the first day or two of the week,” said Keith Bowman, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Metals prices slipped as the dollar rose, while oil futures were little changed at $86.90 a barrel. Shares of Alcoa Inc AA.N, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, fell 0.3 percent to $13.96.

The dollar had been weakening as a result of the Fed’s money-printing stimulus.

On Monday, however, the U.S. currency was up 0.63 percent against major currencies .DXY, recouping recent losses following the surprisingly strong U.S. jobs data.

The euro was notably weak, down 0.79 percent at $1.3920. Against the Japanese yen, the dollar was down 0.11 percent at 81.16 yen.

The premium that investors demand to hold Irish debt over benchmark German bunds rose on Monday, extending a month-long climb that has seen Irish borrowing costs reach record highs on a near daily basis.

U.S. government debt prices were mostly lower, with the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rising 0.01 percentage point to 2.55 percent. Shorter-term yields rose as the Treasury auctioned $32 billion in three-year notes.

In other stock markets, the Athens bourse's banking index .FTATBNK jumped 2.5 percent after results of local elections ruled out a snap general election in the economically strapped euro zone country.

Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson, Edward Krudy, Angela Moon and Frank Tang in New York and Tamawa Desai, Atul Prakash and European Investment Correspondent Jeremy Gaunt in London, and Carmel Crimmins in Dublin; Editing by Dan Grebler

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