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GLOBAL MARKETS-Wall St steps back, euro recovers but vulnerable

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Wall St slightly lower as it consolidates after recent highs * Euro recovers from 2-week low, currency war talk continues * Brent crude falls below $118 a barrel * Most Asian financial centers shut for Lunar New Year By Leah Schnurr NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks slipped on Monday, taking a breather after hitting multi-year highs, while the euro recovered from a two-week low as talk of currency wars unnerved investors. Encouraging U.S. and Chinese data last week helped push U.S. equities higher, sending the tech-focused Nasdaq to a 12-year closing high and the S&P 500 to a five-year peak. With no major economic news on Monday, investors were left with little reason to push the market higher, for now. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen was due to speak about the economic recovery at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT). Less than two months into the year, the S&P 500 is up more than 6 percent, but the rally has stalled with the S&P and Dow industrial indices near record highs. "Some positives behind the market rally are still there, and the path of least resistance is likely to be higher," said Steve Goldman, principal at Goldman Management in Short Hills, New Jersey. In late morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 20.86 points, or 0.15 percent, at 13,972.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.76 points, or 0.05 percent, at 1,517.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 2.57 points, or 0.08 percent, at 3,191.30. Google weighed on the market after the company said in a filing that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is selling roughly 42 percent of his Google stake. Google's shares fell 0.9 percent to $778.22. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 3/32, the yield at 1.959 percent. MSCI's world equity index was down 0.2 percent, and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.7 percent. Tensions over whether some countries are deliberately trying to weaken their currencies were heightened, with French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici saying euro zone countries need closer cooperation on exchange rate policy. He said the issue would be discussed at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers later on Monday. His comments come after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi suggested last week that further euro strength could lead to an interest rate cut. French President Francois Hollande has also urged the euro zone to set an exchange rate target. "The idea of being interventionist in currencies is not particularly new. But at the moment, because some of the bigger players are at the forefront, it feels like a much more pressing issue for markets," said Daragh Maher, FX strategist at HSBC. The Group of Seven major industrial nations may be about to add its weight to the debate in an effort to cool the rhetoric. Two G20 officials told Reuters the group was considering making a statement this week reaffirming a commitment to "market-determined" exchange rates. G20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Moscow on Friday and Saturday. "The G20 meeting in Moscow this week seems certain to focus on 'currency wars' but beyond a bland call for countries not to engage in competitive devaluations, it's hard to see what concrete steps can be taken at this stage," said Kit Juckes, FX strategist at Societe Generale in London. The fear of competitive devaluations by major economies has been building since new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began putting pressure on the country's central bank to take aggressive easing measures to revive the nation's economy. The euro was up 0.4 percent at $1.3420 as speculators bought into the dip after the currency touched a two-week low of $1.3325 earlier in Asian trade. Brent crude prices trimmed losses after earlier dropping below $118 a barrel as concern about the euro zone economy eclipsed stronger-than-expected demand growth in China. Trade data out of China had sent Brent crude to a nine-month high on Friday. Trade was set to be limited this week as many Asian markets are shut due to the Chinese New Year. "We could see a bit of a pullback today in oil prices in the absence of any significant external factors, including the lack of activity in Asia," said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets. Brent crude fell 53 cents to $118.37 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures gained 56 cents to $96.26.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130211/global-markets-wall-st-steps-back-euro-recovers-vulnerable-0