September 17, 2012 / 1:57 AM / 5 years ago

European stocks, euro edge lower as QE rally pauses

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange September 14, 2012. REUTERS/Remote/Amanda Andersen

LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks and the euro both eased on Monday, beginning a new week in cautious fashion after the prospect of fresh U.S. economic stimulus propelled both to multi-month highs in the previous session.

Promised support from the U.S. and euro zone central banks should see both push on to fresh highs in the coming weeks, traders said. The Federal Reserve announced last week that it plans to pump an extra $40 billion a month into the economy until jobs data improves, while the European Central Bank outlined its new bond-buying initiative earlier in the month.

At 0842 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks was down 0.2 percent at 1,118.18 points, pulling back from a 14-month high hit in the previous session. World stocks were also down 0.2 percent.

Asian stocks were generally higher overnight, with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index hitting a 4-1/2 month high, although Tokyo markets were closed. U.S. stocks ended Friday near five-year highs.

“There is still good upside potential for stocks as we are re-pricing the ‘non-break up’ of the euro zone. We’ve just started to realise all the downside that came from the debt crisis,” Louis Capital Markets trader Jerome Troin-Lajous said.

“Now, the main signal we need that would fuel this rally won’t be coming from the economic outlook, it will come from the investment flows. A lot of foreign investors have been strongly ‘underweight’ European stocks and should start to switch out of bonds and out of U.S. equities and into European stocks.”

Fund flow data from EPFR showed Europe equity funds posted their biggest net inflows since early May in the week to September 12, as the ECB action encouraged more investors to take on equity risk and move out of conservative debt.

While risk markets should get a filip from the U.S. stimulus plan, growth is ultimately needed to sustain any recovery, and here concerns remain.

“The Federal Reserve’s decision to engage in an open-ended purchase program reinforces the carry trade in the U.S. dollar and risk assets. It is unlikely to produce meaningful change in economic growth, in our view,” Jefferies analysts said in a note.

Commodities including oil, gold and copper - all of which had risen strongly last week - were lower on Monday.

EURO DIP

The single currency also eased in early European trade, edging back from a four-month high hit on Friday as some in the market booked profits. At 0842 GMT, it traded down 0.2 percent at 1.3097 against the dollar.

“We are due some consolidation. We could trade below $1.30 again but will see $1.35 by year-end. It’s a combination of improvements in Europe and deteriorating dollar sentiment,” said Daragh Maher, currency strategist at HSBC.

While the greenback is expected to remain under pressure in the coming weeks as the effects of the U.S. stimulus plan work their way through the system, it was up 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies on Monday.

It had hit a seven-month low on Friday.

While gaining at the expense of the dollar, the euro has also been supported by the ECB’s plan to help lower the borrowing costs of indebted euro zone countries, if and when the countries concerned - chiefly Spain - ask for that help.

The reversal of Friday’s trend in currencies and stocks also fed through into the bond market, with German Bunds, up 15 basis points.

“A lot of good news is priced in and now the market is pondering whether or when Spain might require a bailout,” said Rabobank rate strategist Richard McGuire. “The realisation is dawning it might not be rushing.”

Spanish 10-year bond yields rose to 5.85 percent on Monday. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he would not accept a rescue that dictated spending cuts.

“The market has priced in an actual bailout and the longer Spain prevaricates, the greater the risk the market will strong-arm them into accepting a support package,” McGuire said.

Additional reporting by Anirban Nag, Kirsten Donovan, Nia Williams and Atul Prakash in London and Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by Catherine Evans

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