July 21, 2017 / 11:58 AM / a year ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro surge to two-year high prompts stocks pause

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* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - The euro’s surge to an almost two-year high dominated financial markets on Friday, with worries over the impact on growth helping push Europe’s major stock exchanges lower.

Wall Street was also set to open slightly lower and oil prices dipped, taking the shine off a second week running of gains for global stock indices.

But the euro was riding high as concerns over probes into U.S. President Donald Trump’s affairs weakened the dollar and investors jumped on signs the European Central Bank is still moving towards tighter policy, even if cautiously.

“We can be pretty sure that when ECB President Mario Draghi sat down for his press conference yesterday the last thing he expected to see was the euro hit its highest level in over two years and for equity markets to slide back,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

“The strength of the euro does appear to be acting as a bit of a headwind for European stocks as they look to close the week sharply lower, in contrast to the performance of UK and U.S. stocks this week.”

The euro hit a high of $1.1676 before retreating as European bond yields fell on a Reuters report suggesting the bank was likely to hold off from any change in policy until October but also viewed December as too late.

Thursday’s meeting did just enough to show policymakers were on course to rein in their two-year old emergency programme of bond-buying without quite scaring the horses.

Investors seem largely to have got over a period of jitters spurred by concerns over the pace of U.S. economic growth and signs that several of the world’s major central banks were determined to tighten monetary policy soon.

But the rally is not quite as convincing as at some points over the past year.

The FTSE index of major European stocks fell around half a percent while Frankfurt and Paris fell by almost 1 percent.

In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, which has gained about 5 percent in the past two weeks, eased 0.2 percent, dragged down by falling materials and financial shares.

Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.2 percent.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe was steady after rising for a 10th straight session on Thursday, its longest such streak since February 2015. It has advanced around 3 percent in the latest rally.

“Strong global growth and (a) decent earnings outlook are supporting shares globally,” said Tatsushi Maeno, senior strategist at Okasan Asset Management.

U.S. quarterly earnings are expected to have climbed 8.6 percent, above the 8-percent rise projected at the start of the month, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. About 15 percent of S&P 500 companies having posted results so far.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets (Writing by Patrick Graham; additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in TOKYO and Abhinav Ramnarayan in LONDON; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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