July 15, 2013 / 2:47 PM / in 5 years

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares little changed as earnings offset data

* China’s second-quarter slowdown not as sharp as feared

* U.S. retail sales weak, but Citigroup rises on earnings

* European shares track Asian gains after Chinese data

* Oil firm at 3-1/2 month high, copper sheds gains

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, July 15 (Reuters) - Stock markets around the world were little changed on Monday on a milder-than-expected slowdown in Chinese growth and as weaker-than-forecast U.S. retail sales suggested pockets of softness in the economy even as positive bank results pointed to improvements.

The U.S. dollar edged slightly higher while the euro fell. Yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury slipped and Bunds rebounded.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.4 percent in June, only half the 0.8 percent economists polled by Reuters had expected, though the disappointment was tempered by an acceleration of growth in New York state’s manufacturing sector in July.

The mixed picture added to the debate over when and how quickly the U.S. Federal Reserve would start to slow its stimulus program, which has been widely credited with taking major indexes to all-time highs.

European stocks rose 0.3 percent while U.S. shares were flat, supported by strong earnings at Citigroup Inc.. The bank’s shares rose 1.9 percent to $51.76.

“There aren’t many sellers in the market, but there’s a sense that with earnings coming up, everyone is lined up waiting for the gun to go off,” said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Rockwell Securities in New York. “Retail sales were disappointing, but Citigroup had good news. But that news was largely expected.”

China’s economic growth cooled to 7.5 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while other figures showed a healthy rise in retail sales and a minor undershoot of forecasts in industrial output. Shares in Shanghai rose 1 percent.

Comments by Beijing last week had led markets to think the numbers might have been weaker, so the outcome brought relief. Commodities initially drove higher, but like stocks faced some profit-taking following a strong week last week.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 10.16 points, or 0.07 percent, at 15,474.46. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 0.05 points, or 0.00 percent, at 1,680.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.67 points, or 0.02 percent, at 3,599.41.

Oil slipped from a 3-1/2 month high as it hovered just under $109 a barrel, while copper, gold and silver were all nursing minor losses.

The Australian dollar, closely attuned to China’s fortunes due to its appetite for Aussie raw materials, lost some of its post-data ground to stand 0.2 percent higher at $0.9095. The U.S. dollar was up 0.1 percent and the euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.3044, rebounding from a session low of $1.2993.

Markets went into a mild panic last month when the Fed laid out a rough timetable for phasing out its stimulus. But Wall Street roared back to all-time highs last week after a campaign by the world’s top central banks to soothe market concerns.

“We are of the view that the U.S. recovery remains on track, so we don’t think there will be any delay to the start of the tapering process” (of Fed stimulus), said Alvin Tan, an FX strategist at Societe Generale.

“Bernanke is unlikely to come across more dovish than he did last week, which undoubtedly surprised the market.”

In the bond market, trading was largely subdued. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 11/32, the yield at 2.5484 percent.

Benchmark German Bund futures were 15 ticks lower on the day at 143.51, having gained almost two points last week while a sell-off in Portuguese bonds steadied as traders awaited developments after its political troubles.

French bonds, gave a Gallic shoulder shrug to a downgrade by Fitch after the last of the big three ratings firms stripped Paris of its AAA status on Friday.

“Conservative bond investors, such as reserve managers, used to have triple-A only mandates, but they have adapted to the reality that there aren’t many triple-As anymore,” said Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, head of global asset allocation at JPMorgan.

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