Stocks struggle after euro zone growth reports
European stocks fell back on Friday and U.S. stocks looked set to open flat after a mixed bag of euro zone growth numbers that showed France and Germany growing marginally but others like Italy still firmly in recession.
Asian stocks had fallen earlier on the latest signs that growth inChina is also slowing and the European data confirmed that the outlook for much of the world economy still looks much shakier than for the United States.
Energy stocks were depressed as crude oil edged up from a near four-year low hit in Asian time and the Russian rouble, hammered in recent weeks as world oil prices fell, was down almost 1 percent, testing record lows around 48 per dollar.
Germany's economy eked out growth of 0.1 percent on the quarter, while France - generally seen as in deeper trouble than its neighbour - grew by 0.3 percent, helping the euro zone as a whole to grow 0.2 percent.
"The German number is slightly positive - in line with expectations, but it's still soft," said Patrick Jacq, a rate strategist at BNP Paribas in Paris.
"The (French) growth in Q3 is only driven by inventories. It's just a one-off positive figure in a very weak environment and therefore this is not something which could lead the market to think that the economic situation is improving in France."
European shares fell 0.4 percent .FTEU3, with traders saying a dip below an important technical barrier had helped spur a slump in Frankfurt mid-morning. .GDAXI. France performed better but was still 0.1 percent lower .FCHI.
Telecom gear maker Nokia (NOK1V.HE) was among the big losers, down 5.6 percent as traders cited disappointment with the group's updated profit margin targets.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.2 percent, countered by a half-point rise in Tokyo.
A Reuters poll showed Japanese companies overwhelmingly want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to delay or scrap a planned tax increase, a move expected to come along with a decision, expected by many, to call a new election.
The yen, down more than 3 percent against a stronger dollar this month, fell another half percent to a seven-year low of 116.385 yen per dollar.
"The argument is that delaying the sales tax hike means the impulse to CPI inflation will start to drop," said Alvin Tan, a currency strategist at French bank Societe Generale in London.
"If there's no additional sales tax hike, the impulse to higher inflation starts to fade away quite rapidly. So in order to push inflation higher, which is what everybody wants, you need the currency to weaken a lot more."
The perception that the U.S. economy is faring better than either Europe's or Japan's, and expectations that monetary policy there will tighten next year as a result, has helped push the dollar higher against both the euro and yen.
The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.2429 EUR=, inching back towards a two-year low of $1.2358 struck last Friday.
Oil edged up from an early four-year low below $77 a barrel, still pressured by excess supply and scepticism that OPEC would cut output at a meeting in two weeks.
The International Energy Agency, which usually refrains from predicting oil prices, said in its monthly report that prices could fall further in 2015 and pressure was building on OPEC to cut supply.
"It is increasingly clear that we have begun a new chapter in the history of the oil markets," the IEA, which advises the United States and other industrialised countries, said.
"Barring any new supply disruption, downward price pressures could build further in the first half of 2015."
Brent LCOc1 hit an intra-day low of $76.76 in Asian time but had recovered to trade at $78.52 as of 0748 EST.
Global benchmark Brent is down from $115 in June and has dropped for eight weeks in a row, its longest weekly losing streak since records began in 1988, based on Reuters data.