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GLOBAL MARKETS-Risk aversion hits stocks, dollar; sterling jumps
April 18, 2017 / 2:53 PM / 5 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Risk aversion hits stocks, dollar; sterling jumps

(Updates with U.S. markets, changes dateline from previous LONDON)

* U.S. crude little changed after gasoline data

* Snap British election boosts sterling

* Focus on Korean peninsula tension, French election

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - Stock indexes and the U.S. dollar fell on Tuesday as a snap general election call in Britain added to a growing list of uncertainties for investors, including saber-rattling in the Korean Peninsula and an election in France.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Tokyo after reassuring South Korea of an “iron-clad” alliance with the United States as the reclusive North, which regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States, has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests.

In France, opinion polls have for months shown far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying next Sunday for the May 7 run-off, in what remains the most unpredictable presidential election in decades.

Disappointing quarterly results from corporate heavyweights Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson dragged Wall Street lower.

“The key for the market is still earnings, economic growth etc, and politics is merely a daily side show,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 84.96 points, or 0.41 percent, to 20,551.96, the S&P 500 lost 5.37 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,343.64 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 10.19 points, or 0.17 percent, to 5,846.60.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.98 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.43 percent.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.55 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.91 percent lower, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.35 percent.

Sterling strengthened as British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early election on June 8, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union.

Deutsche Bank said the surprise election call is a “game-changer” for the currency, and that it will raise its forecasts for the pound in the coming days.

Risk-aversion favored the safe-haven yen.

“Dollar-yen has been suffering from risk-aversion, which is reflected in weak stocks and just in general, with a bit of geopolitical fears,” said Alvise Marino, FX strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.

The dollar index fell 0.43 percent, with the euro up 0.48 percent to $1.0691.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.16 percent versus the greenback at 108.73 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.275, up 1.50 percent on the day.

Oil prices were weighed by concerns that U.S. production growth is undermining efforts to cut oversupply, but U.S. crude pared losses after gasoline data showed a draw of about 400,000 barrels in the New York Harbor region.

U.S. crude fell 0.02 percent to $52.64 per barrel and Brent was last at $55.18, down 0.33 percent on the day.

U.S. Treasury yields fell as nervousness ahead of France’s first round of Presidential elections this weekend and ongoing geopolitical tensions increased demand for safe-haven U.S. debt.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 13/32 in price to yield 2.2054 percent, from 2.252 percent late on Monday.

Gold edged up after touching five-month highs the previous session, bolstered by the weaker dollar, North Korea tensions and the French presidential election.

Spot gold added 0.1 percent to $1,284.95 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.35 percent to $1,287.40 an ounce.

Copper lost 1.24 percent to $5,621.50 a tonne.

Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru, Karolin Schaps and Nigel Stephenson in London, and Karen Brettell and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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