Lackluster factory data hits world stocks, dollar strong

Wed Oct 1, 2014 7:48am EDT
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By Nigel Stephenson

LONDON (Reuters) - Stocks worldwide began the fourth quarter on a negative note on Wednesday, as lackluster economic data and civil unrest in Hong Kong kept investors cautious before a European Central Bank meeting later this week.

The dollar held close to a four-year high, helped by the weak factory activity data, pushing commodity prices lower.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 equity index was down 0.2 percent after final September purchasing manager (PMI) numbers from France, Germany and the euro zone as a whole underlined the fragility of the European recovery.

Sales warnings from UK supermarket J Sainsbury and French cable maker Nexans fueled worries over European corporate results.

Manufacturing stumbled across most of Asia last month, helping push Asian shares lower.

U.S. stocks looked set for a lower opening, according to stocks index futures .

The numbers, along with slowing euro zone inflation data on Tuesday, highlighted the divergent monetary policy outlook between the U.S. Federal Reserve on the one hand and the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan on the other.

The ECB meets on Thursday while investors will keep a close eye on U.S. jobs data on Friday for clues to when the Fed might raise interest rates.   Continued...

A man walks past the London Stock Exchange in the City of London October 11, 2013.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth