Stocks swept lower as bonds, dollar struggle to steady

By Reuters

May 07, 2015 06:22 AM EDT

World financial markets were unsettled again on Thursday as a week-long sell-off in benchmark government bonds, stocks and the dollar, and a race up in oil prices, was compounded by UK election uncertainty.

Nerves were still jangling in Europe and shares and bonds got off to another poor start on fears the recent surge in yields, the euro and energy costs could snuff out the only recently-formed hopes of a solid euro zone recovery.

The regional FTSEurofirst .FTEU3 was led down by 0.9 percent falls on Germany's Dax GDAXI and France's CAC 40 .FCHI and as the euro hovered at its highest level against the dollar and other top currencies EUR=EURGBP= since February.

London's FTSE .FTSE, the region's biggest share market, meanwhile, was down 0.6 percent and sterling GBP=D4 was a fraction lower at $1.5234 as attention turned to the day's national election which remains too close to call.

Markets have barely budged during campaigning but the outcome will be anything but dull.

Britain's ability to hold on to Scotland and its place in the European Union are both potentially up for grabs depending on which party, or more likely parties, prevail.

"The problem is that this the closest election we have seen for a very long time, and in many ways the process doesn't really start until we know the result and whether we have a 'working' government," said Nick Lawson, a managing director at Deutsche Bank in London.

UK gilt yields UK10YT=RR nudged higher in early deals, but focus was more on the euro zone after most of its government borrowing costs had hit 2015 highs on Wednesday as a global sell-off in bond markets accelerated. US10YT=RR

German 10-year bond yields DE10YT=TWEB were up at 0.655 percent as selling resumed in early deals. Just a month ago they were at a record low of 0.05 percent and many were betting the European Central Bank's trillion euro bond buying plan would turn them negative.

All the ECB QE gains for Bunds and other euro zone bonds have also now been erased.

The reason for the turnaround hasn't yet been pinpointed although with oil back near $70 a barrel fuelling talk of a rebound in inflation -- Brent was at $67.70 at 0710 GMT -- some analysts have argued the ECB is now more likely to end its QE on time or early, rather than extend it as previously suspected.

Economic data from France and Germany released as markets opened also added to the uncertainty. German industrial orders figures rose less than expected with the country's economy ministry pointing to weak foreign demand.

The dollar .DXY has been one of the other startling movers in recent weeks. It languished at its lowest in over two months against a basket of major currencies early on having come under renewed pressure from disappointing data on Wednesday. [FRX/]

It was up just a fraction against the yen at 1.1932 and the flat on euro in early European trading, while 10-year U.S. Treasuries which have been moving in the same direction as the currency saw their yields steady at 2.25 percent.

Friday sees the release of monthly U.S. jobs data which is seen as the best gauge of the giant economy's health. It is also crucial for the Federal Reserve and its Chair, Janet Yellen, warned on Wednesday there could be disruption.

"We could see a sharp jump in long-term rates. So we're trying to ... communicate as clearly about our monetary policy so we don't take markets by surprise," she said.

Asia had seen fresh selling overnight. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1 percent as shares retreated in China, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korean and Malaysia.

The Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC was down 1.4 percent on fears of fresh moves by regulators to reduce leverage in stock trading, extending its losses so far this week to 6.1 percent.

Tokyo's Nikkei .N225 meanwhile lost 1.1 percent in its first trading day of the week having been closed since Monday for public holidays.

Among commodities, profit taking saw oil drift off its 2015 high [O/R] and copper and most other industrial metals also retreated from recent peaks as traders locked in some gains. [MET/L]

"Certainly this decline in the dollar index from the recent highs is shaping a lot of price activity across the commodity complex," said analyst Mark Keenan of Societe Generale in Singapore.

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