GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. shares up in choppy trade; euro near 2-month lows

Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:12pm GMT

* U.S. stocks edge up after previous week's loss

* Volume light on Veterans Day; bond market closed

* Euro zone finance ministers meet to discuss Greece

* Soy hits 4-month low, almost erasing drought rally

By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose in choppy trade on Monday as firmer Chinese economic data offset concerns about a possible U.S. fiscal crisis and delays to an installment of Greek aid.

News that Chinese exports rose sharply in October, signaling the giant economy was strengthening, encouraged investors.

But stock market gains were limited, made tentative by concerns about the euro zone and possible higher U.S. taxes and spending cuts in the early part of 2013.

In Chicago, grain futures tumbled amid a wave of technical selling, with soybeans sinking to a 4-1/2-month low that nearly erased gains from this summer's devastating drought.

Prices had already been under pressure after the U.S. Department of Agriculture o n F riday raised its estimate for U.S. soybean production more than expected and increased its forecast for global inventories. Most actively traded January soybeans fell 2.9 percent to $14.10 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade by 1:40 p.m. CST (1840 GMT).

The euro treaded water against the dollar, hovering close to a recent two-month low at $1.2719 as uncertainty about another tranche of financial aid for Greece to help pay off its debt kept investors cautious. The euro is down about 1.9 percent against the dollar so far in November.

On Wall Street, the stock market's modest gains came after the S&P 500 slid 2.4 percent last week, its worst week since June. The benchmark index remains up 10 percent for 2012.

Last week's weakness was partly driven by concerns about whether there will be a timely solution to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect early next year unless Congress reaches a compromise. Economists fear tax increases and spending cuts could tip the economy back into recession if a deal is not reached.

"The markets don't like uncertainty and while the election is over, investors must still deal with the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling and the unpredictable situation in Europe," said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab, in Austin, Texas.

"But, keep in mind, the markets are clearly oversold in the short-term and even a hint of resolution on any of these issues could spark a nice bounce," he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 24.73 points, or 0.19 percent, at 12,839.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.93 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,382.70. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 4.27 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,809.14.

In the United States, homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations, helped by a jump in orders. D.R. Horton's shares gained 3.1 percent to $21.23.

Overseas, a weekend report showing China's export growth climbed to a five-month high added to recent data suggesting the country's seven straight quarters of slowing economic growth have ended.

Also, the Greek parliament on Sunday approved an austerity budget for next year, a necessary step to unblock a new tranche of credit from the European Union and International Monetary Fund before the government runs out of cash. Still, investors remain concerned about whether the EU and IMF will agree to send the next tranche.

The MSCI world equity index was down 0.04 percent at 323.12 by 2055 GMT following the three days of losses last week.

In Europe the FTSEurofirst 300 Index was down 0.26 percent at 1,094.35 after last week's 1.6 percent drop. London's FTSE 100 was down 0.04 percent and Frankfurt's DAX was up 0.07 percent while Paris' CAC-40 was down 0.35percent.

The uncertainty over the Greek aid talks and the U.S. budget impasse supported German government bonds, with 10-year yields steady at 1.35 percent.

European credit markets were also flat, with the iTraxx main index, made up of 125 investment-grade bonds, 0.4 basis points wider at 131 basis points.

In the oil market, worries about the danger of the United States, the world's top oil consumer, tipping into recession as a result of the fiscal cliff and the weak Japanese data were checked by the strong Chinese trade numbers.

Brent crude oil futures fell 52 cents to $108.89 by 1900 GMT, after gaining more than 2 percent on Friday. U.S. oil was down 35 cents at $85.71 after finishing up more than 1 percent last week to end a three-week slide.

Gold was at $1.728.49 an ounce, well above a 2-month low around $1,672 hit last week.

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