World shares steady as U.S. fiscal worries, Europe weigh
LONDON (Reuters) - World share markets were on course for their worst weekly performance since June on Friday as concerns over the United States fiscal cliff and the outlook for Europe hit sentiment.
But better-than-expected Chinese economic data for October, pointing to a modest rebound in the world's second largest economy, helped eased concerns over global growth, keeping market moves within tight ranges.
The MSCI world equity index was flat at around 323.6 points but has lost just over two percent this week and is on track for its worst performance since early June.
European shares extended their losses into a third day, partly due to worries over whether Greece will secure a deal to unlock access to urgently needed international aid.
The FTSE Eurofirst index of top European shares fell 0.1 percent to 1096.51 in early trading. London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX barely changed at the open.
Greece votes to approve the country's 2013 budget on Sunday, the next big step towards allowing bailout money to flow again so it can avoiding defaulting on its debt.
"We still have the situation in Greece, the volatility indexes are showing that investors are not too worried at the moment but that can change quickly so politicians need to act quickly," said Emile Cardon, a market economist at Rabobank.
The euro steadied at around $1.2750 to the dollar, just above a two-month low of $1.2717 hit on Thursday after the European Central Bank kept rates on hold and its president, Mario Draghi, sounded downbeat on the euro zone economy.
The dollar was down 0.1 percent after hitting a two-month high against a basket of major currencies of 81.001 on Thursday. Rising demand on the back of the looming U.S. fiscal crisis underpinned the greenback, seen as a safe haven.
Since the U.S. elections on Tuesday investors have become worried that Washington could struggle to find a compromise to cut the budget deficit before nearly $600 billion worth of spending cuts and tax increases kick in early 2013.
Markets are also eyeing the debt ceiling, which needs to be raised to avoid a government shutdown.
Gold rose to a three-week high of $1,737.60 an ounce on Friday, and is on track for its first weekly gain in a month as the fiscal worries boosted the appeal of the precious metal.
Analysts say the fiscal cliff could derail the U.S. economy, which had recently defied a general trend in other parts of the world by showing signs of a modest recovery, and a U.S. recession could drag the global economy down further.
Those concerns ease somewhat after Chinese data showed industrial output and retail sales for October slightly exceeded expectations, while annual October consumer inflation eased to its slowest pace in nearly three years, giving policymakers scope to further loosen monetary policy if needed.
"But given the uncertainties in the outside world, we expect the recovery momentum to be limited and the full-year industrial output is likely to be around 10 percent for this year," said Iang Chao, analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai.
The slightly better outlook for China left U.S. crude up 34 cents to $85.43 a barrel and Brent rose 13 cents to $107.38.
(Reporting by Richard Hubbard and Marc Jones. Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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