* Stocks dip in Europe and Asia on ECB taper talk
* "Hard Brexit" worries push sterling to 31-year low
* Gold edges up but stays near three-month low
* Oil rises on report of U.S. inventory draw
By Nigel Stephenson
LONDON, Oct 5 The prospect of the European
Central Bank eventually winding down its bond-buying stimulus
programme rattled investors on Wednesday, dragging stocks lower
in Europe and Asia and pushing up government bond yields.
Wall Street stocks looked set to open flat to slightly
lower, having fallen on Tuesday on expectations of a Federal
Reserve interest rate rise in coming months and concerns over
Britain's exit from the European Union .
Sterling, meanwhile, hit a three-decade low against the
dollar, trading below $1.27 for the first time since 1985, and a
five-year low versus the euro on worries Britain could be
heading for a "hard Brexit" that would see it leave the European
Union's single market when it quits the bloc, possibly in early
Oil prices rose strongly. Benchmark Brent crude
gained 1.8 percent to $51.80 a barrel on a report that U.S.
inventories dropped for a fifth week in a low.
However, the chief driver for the market malaise was a
Bloomberg report on Tuesday that the ECB would probably wind
down its 80 billion euro ($90 billion) monthly bond purchases
before ending its quantitative easing programme.
This would mean a taper, following the Fed's earlier
pattern, rather than a sudden ending.
ECB media officer Michael Steen later tweeted that the
central bank's decision-making body had not discussed reducing
the pace of its monthly bond buying.
The report comes as investors are wondering whether the
central bank asset-buying stimulus programmes that have buoyed
markets across the globe are reaching their limits.
ECB President Mario Draghi confounded the expectations of
many in markets when he said after the bank's last meeting that
policymakers had not discussed extending its scheme.
"I am surprised at the reaction, but it's just this notion
that the ECB may be discussing tapering one day that has upset
the market," said ING rates strategist Benjamin Schroeder. "If
you kick off a QE programme you have to think from the start
about how you will exit it."
European stocks fell. The pan-European STOXX index
fell nearly 1 percent, having risen 0.8 percent on Tuesday.
Shares in Deutsche Bank, which like other euro
zone lenders has had its profitability questioned by the ECB's
ultra-low interest rates, initially rose but were last down 0.1
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
slipped 0.4 percent. Japan's Nikkei
closed up 0.5 percent, aided by a weaker yen.
German 10-year government bond yields rose 6
basis points to minus 0.03 percent. Ten-year yields in Italy and
Spain, where borrowing costs have been anchored by ECB bond
purchases, soared 10 bps at one point before pulling back
The dollar retreated from Tuesday highs hit after Chicago
Fed President Charles Evans said he would be "fine" with raising
interest rates by year-end if economic data stayed firm.
Traders are pricing in a 63 percent chance of a rate hike in
December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
The dollar fell 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies
. The euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.1220 but the
yen was down 0.3 percent at 103.13 per dollar.
"We do not think the ECB is anywhere close to tapering its
asset purchase programme, but in the near term momentum is
towards euro upside," said Nomura currency strategist Yujiro
Sterling was flat at $1.2726, having fallen as far as
$1.2683. Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday the formal
process to take Britain out of the EU would begin next March,
adding on Tuesday there would be "bumps in the road".
($1 = 0.8906 euros)
(Additional reporting by Nichola Saminther in Singapore, Sujata
Rao, Anirban Nag and Dhara Ranasinghe in London; Editing by
Jeremy Gaunt and Susan Thomas)