December 20, 2017 / 12:08 PM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-World shares off record highs as U.S. tax overhaul nears completion

(Updates prices, market moves)

* Stock futures point to higher Wall Street open

* European, Asian stocks edge down

* US yield curve at its steepest in around 3 weeks

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

By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - World stock markets wavered just below recent record highs while U.S. Treasury yields held near multi-month peaks on Wednesday as the final procedural throes of long-awaited U.S. tax reform played out in Washington.

The Republican-led U.S. Senate approved the sweeping $1.5-trillion tax bill in the early hours of Wednesday. A re-vote by the House of Representatives was scheduled for later in the day, with approval expected, and the bill will then go to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

European stock markets fell, with blue-chip indexes in Berlin, Paris and London 0.2 to 0.4 percent lower on the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan bobbed lower in a choppy session and Japan’s Nikkei index finished up 0.1 percent, although U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open for Wall Street.

MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was little changed and holding just below record highs hit on Monday.

“In the short term the U.S. tax reform is already priced in. What remains to be seen is whether U.S. companies will follow up with share buy backs or investments,” said Andrea Scauri, a fund manager at Italy’s Ifigest.

BONDS BRUISED

U.S. Treasury yields, which notched up their biggest one-day jump in almost three months on Tuesday as the tax bill moved towards passage, steadied at around 2.46 percent -- holding near the previous day’s almost two-month highs.

That rise left the U.S. Treasury yield curve close to its steepest in almost three weeks, with the gap between two- and 10-year bond yields at around 60 basis points.

“Last week the reaction of bond markets was one of ambivalence about the likelihood of these measures getting passed,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London.

“However, U.S. yields have jumped sharply higher in the last two days as the prospect of higher inflation and growth prompted some positioning adjustments in anticipation that the measures, if passed, could prompt conditions that might see rates have to rise faster than expected next year.”

Republicans, who control both lawmaking chambers, said their tax plan would boost consumer spending and business investments, while independent government estimates showed the proposed tax cuts would end up adding at least $1 trillion to the $20 trillion national debt in 10 years.

The premium investors get for buying emerging market government debt rather than U.S. Treasuries equalled a more than three-year low, as the spurt up by U.S. yields added to the recent cheer around faster-growing developing economies.

Borrowing costs in the euro area extended Tuesday’s sharp rises with 10- and 30-year bond yields in Germany hitting three-week highs.

News on Tuesday that Germany, the euro zone’s benchmark bond issuer, will issue more 30-year debt next year sparked a sharp sell off in bonds, exacerbated by weakness in U.S. bond markets and comments from European Central Bank policy makers.

The euro drew support from higher euro zone rates, gaining 0.5 percent on Tuesday, when central bank governors of Estonia, Slovakia and Germany all discussed the need to shift the debate from bond purchases to other tools such as interest rates.

Against a basket of six rival currencies, the dollar was little changed on the day at 93.454.

The greenback edged down 0.2 percent to 113.11 yen, while the euro was a touch firmer at $1.1844.

Elsewhere, Sweden’s crown briefly surged as much as 1 percent after the central bank kept rates unchanged but said it would reinvest coupons and cash from maturing bonds, including bringing forward some reinvestments into 2018.

Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Additional reporting by Lisa Twaronite in TOKYO and Danilo Masoni in MILAN; Editing by Catherine Evans

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