May 11, 2018 / 9:02 AM / 11 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks set for strongest week since March, dollar erases week's gains

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* World stocks up 0.3 percent on the day

* Dollar index falls to 1-week low

* Oil prices ease from multi-year highs

* South European government debt in demand

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON, May 11 (Reuters) - Shares rose worldwide on Friday, getting a boost from soft U.S. inflation numbers that helped soothe worries of faster Fed monetary tightening and pushed the dollar to its lowest for a week.

The MSCI All Country World Index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up nearly 0.4 percent and was set for its strongest week since March 9. The dollar fell 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies, erasing this week’s gains in the wake of inflation data released on Thursday.

Oil prices steadied near 3-1/2-year highs as the prospect of new U.S. sanctions on Iran tightened the outlook for Middle East supply at a time when global crude production is only just keeping pace with rising demand.

The inflation numbers followed employment data last week that pointed to sluggish wage growth.

While the rally in stocks seemed to point to investor relief, analysts were split over whether the slowdown in inflation could lower the chances of the Fed increasing the number of rate hikes it has suggested will take place this year.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ President James Bullard will make a speech on Friday, as will European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

ADS Securities head of research Konstantinos Anthis said the case for two or three further U.S. rate hikes might be decided after the summer. Fed funds futures show a 93-percent chance of one next month.

“The data from the U.S. for the past few months has been supportive so if this trend is to continue there’s plenty of time for the Fed to witness stronger performance again and grow more aggressive,” Anthis said.

The inflation data also flattened the U.S. Treasury yield curve further, with the gap between 5-year and 30-year bonds at its narrowest since 2007. Investors also bought southern European government bonds, taking advantage of a rise in yields on the back of Italian political concerns.

Italian, Spanish and Portuguese 10-year borrowing costs fell 2-3 basis points (bps), outpacing better-rated peers at the end of a week in which the increasing likelihood of an anti-establishment coalition taking power in Italy had hurt the euro zone’s lower-rated debt.

Italian 10-year yields were set for their biggest weekly rise since February.

SHIFTING POLITICAL CONCERNS

European stocks, meanwhile, were set to seal their longest winning streak for more than three years as M&A activity stole the spotlight from the tail-end of a robust earnings season.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was flat, but set for its seventh straight week of gains - its longest winning streak since March 2015. Germany’s DAX was down 0.3 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.1 percent. Wall Street was futures indicated a positive start to the session.

Asian markets were cheered by a further easing in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12 for talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan . rose 0.7 percent to near three-week highs while Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.2 percent.

With the situation around North Korea off the boil for now, political concerns are focused elsewhere as the United States and China continue skirmishing over trade and as tensions rise in the Middle East.

“Trump still needs President Xi (Jinping) and China’s support in dealing with North Korea and this will be his priority in the short term,” JPMorgan economists wrote in a note to clients.

“Once the meeting is finished, trade may return to the fore.”

U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in Washington for a second round of trade talks next week, after apparently making little progress in discussions in Beijing this month.

In currency markets, the pound traded at $1.3573, rising half a percent above a four-month low of $1.3457 touched on Thursday after the Bank of England held interest rates.

In commodities markets, spot gold rose 0.3 percent to $1,324.66 an ounce.

U.S. crude futures were up 0.2 percent at $71.46 a barrel. Brent crude futures fell 0.1 percent to $77.41 a barrel. (Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho Editing by Louise Ireland)

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