World stocks steady as focus shifts to Jackson Hole

People walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

MILAN (Reuters) – World stocks steadied and the dollar edged up on Thursday as investors switched their focus from political concerns to speculation over shifts in monetary policy as the annual Jackson Hole gathering begins.

The MSCI World index .WORLD, which fell to a five-week low on Monday following days of turmoil at the White House, a deadly attack in Spain and worries over North Korea, was flat.

Wall Street futures ESc11YMc1NQc1 pointed slightly higher, while gains by cyclicals helped Europe’s STOXX 600 benchmark index inch up 0.4 percent. [nL4N1LA40Q]

Earlier, the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS also rose, shaking off jitters that shook markets after President Donald Trump threatened to shut down the U.S. government and end the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump said on Tuesday he would be willing to risk a shutdown to secure funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The world’s largest economy faces a late-September deadline to raise the its debt ceiling or risk defaulting on debt payments.

“It’s easy to expect that Washington will produce negative catalysts in the next few weeks. The political scenario is quite explosive while the macro picture looks more reassuring,” said Giuseppe Sersale, strategist at Anthilia Capital Partners.

Markets were focusing on the central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi were both due to speak, although significant new policy messages were considered unlikely.

Still, “there are concerns about what central bankers will say as the market appears stretched, especially Wall Street, where valuations look to have reached a limit,” said Enrico Vaccari, a fund manager at Italy’s Consultinvest.

Vaccari said he saw risks of a stock market correction after Jackson Hole that was unlikely to leave Europe unscathed, even though valuations in the region had become attractive again compared with their U.S. peers.

“Europe can’t make it on its own, especially because of the super-euro,” he said.

The dollar is down 14 percent against the common currency this year, but it edged up against some other major currencies after falling on worries about the shutdown risk, amid uncertainty over what message Fed policymakers will send over coming days.

Traders from Citi said they leaned towards expecting a bullish message for the dollar from Yellen.

“Our base case is for Yellen to be mildly hawkish,” they told clients in a morning briefing.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six other major currencies, gained 0.08 percent to 93.22 after falling 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

The euro EUR=EBS was flat at $1.1804, after climbing on Wednesday on surveys that showed German and French manufacturing and services were expanding .

In commodities, oil slipped as strength in the dollar more than offset support from potential output disruptions from the Gulf of Mexico storm Tropical Depression Harvey.

Brent crude futures, LCOc1 the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading down 0.1 percent at $52.52 per barrel.

Copper shone, with its price rising to a near three-year high on signs of higher demand in top consumer China while inventories fell in London warehouses.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=

Reporting by Danilo Masoni; additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London and Nichola Saminather in Singapore; Editing by Larry King and John Stonestreet

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