* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
* Global Assets in 2017 reut.rs/2ne9sjH
* EM stocks in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2hn5N02
By Marc Jones
LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - World stocks dipped on Friday as investors locked in some of the more than 6 percent gain that has given them their best start to year since 2012, while the dollar inched towards what could be its strongest week of 2017 so far.
Asian and European shares both saw profit-taking as traders squared up for the quarter, though there was plenty still going, not least in South Africa where the sacking of its respected finance minister sent the rand tumbling again.
The dollar had its tail up after U.S. growth data, talk of as many as three more Fed rate hikes this year and the best Chinese manufacturing data in nearly 5 years, though even that couldn’t prevent commodity markets wilting.
Oil was back under $53 a barrel, metals were down 1 percent and Europe’s Basic Resources index, where big miners are listed, fell 1.7 percent to leave London’s FTSE and the pan-European STOXX 600 index down 0.5-0.6 percent.
The later was still on track for a 5 percent rise and third straight quarterly gain in a row, although emerging markets have been the big winners. MSCI's EM stocks index is up 12.5 percent on a dollar-adjusted basis. reut.rs/2ne9sjH
Against a basket of the world’s other major currencies the dollar was up 0.1 percent and tantalisingly close to a 1 percent weekly gain that would be its best in an otherwise lacklustre year.
Over the quarter the greenback has fallen 1.7 percent, its worst showing in a year, on doubts that U.S. President Donald Trump was not prioritising - and did not have the necessary power - to push through Congress the economic reforms that had driven the dollar to 14-year highs at the start of the year.
“We are relatively optimistic on global growth but we think the cyclical trade has rotated away from the Trump trade and near-term U.S. fiscal stimulus,” said Schroders’ multi-asset Portfolio Manager Angus Sippe.
“We are now more optimistic on the euro zone,” he said, adding he was also “marginally short the dollar.”
The euro held its own at just under $1.07 as data showed euro zone inflation had slowed in March by far more than the economists had expected, driven down mostly by a deceleration of energy price rises.
There were tentative signs too that the euro zone’s weakest members would be hit the hardest by an imminent scaling back of the European Central Bank’s asset purchase programme.
The yield, an indication of borrowing costs, on bonds of southern euro zone states including Portugal and Italy headed higher in the final day of trading before the ECB drops its monthly purchases of debt from 80 billion to 60 billion euros.
Top ECB policymaker Benoit Coeure emphasised the bank would tread carefully with any further changes.
In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan retreated 0.55 percent after its 12.5 percent charge over the quarter.
Hong Kong shares fell 0.6 percent, but were still headed for a 9.8 percent quarterly jump and China’s CSI 300 index added 0.4 percent, putting it on track for a 4.3 percent quarterly rise.
“Asia saw some pretty healthy profit-taking after a few sessions of solid gains, and as investors await euro zone and U.S. inflation data tonight,” said James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney.
Next week promises to an interesting start to the second quarter.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Florida and the U.S. president has set the tone by tweeting that Washington could no longer tolerate massive trade deficits and job losses.
He will also sign executive orders on Friday aimed at identifying abuses that are causing the deficits and clamping down on non-payment of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports, his top trade officials said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said on Friday that it does not have a policy to devalue its currency to promote exports, and neither does it seek a trade surplus with the United States.
“The dialogue emanating from that is going to help set the tone of the relationship between the U.S. and China and these days it goes beyond trade. There is a lot to discuss geopolitically, not least North Korea,” said PIMCO portfolio manager Yacov Arnopolin.
In commodities, Brent oil and U.S. crude dipped to $52.91 a barrel and $50.35 a barrel, having zipped higher on Thursday after Kuwait backed an extension of OPEC production cuts.
Oil was heading for a 6.8 percent loss for the quarter, though. In contrast gold which was at $1,241.81 has gained nearly 8 since the start of the year.
For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets
Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Mark Heinrich