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Growth outlook buoys world shares, earlier Fed taper talk underpins dollar

Investors look at computer screens in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hefei, Anhui province October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON (Reuters) - Signs of solid U.S. growth supported world equities on Monday though concern it may mean the Federal Reserve could soon begin to reduce its stimulus put pressure on emerging markets.

The dollar held near a two-week high after surprisingly strong U.S. jobs data on Friday raised expectations that the Fed could start tapering stimulus earlier than previously anticipated, pushing U.S. Treasury yields higher.

"I think tapering could well come earlier than March now, but I think people believe there is a little more upside as there were plus points in the (jobs) data," Alastair Winter, chief economist at brokerage Daniel Stewart, said.

Fed officials including Chairman Ben Bernanke have sounded cautious on the economy since Friday's jobs data. However, a Reuters poll, taken after the payrolls report, showed that more U.S. primary dealers than in a poll two weeks ago now expect the Fed to begin tapering before March.

The better growth outlook implied by the jobs report lifted European shares in early trading, and boosted Japan's Nikkei by a hefty 1.3 percent.

MSCI's global barometer of world shares added 0.15 percent though it is down 1.7 percent from the near six-year highs touched at the end of October when it seemed more certain the Fed would not taper until well into next year.

A Veterans Day holiday in the United States and Armistice remembrance holidays in several European countries, added to the quiet tone in markets.

Asian shares outside Japan bucked the firmer trend, dipping slightly and reflecting concern in emerging markets that a more imminent cutback in Fed stimulus due to an improved growth outlook would attract capital back toward the United States.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.5 percent, hitting its lowest since October 11 and extending Friday's 1 percent drop.

Sentiment in Asia was also hit by data showing a sharp rise in China's inflation rate to an eight-month high, which fanned worries of policy tightening just as factory output and export data suggested the world's No. 2 economy was stabilising after a period of slower growth.

Emerging Asian currencies also came under pressure on the capital outflow fears, pushing the Indian rupee down 1.3 percent to 63.281 per dollar and the Indonesian rupiah down 1 percent to 11,551 per dollar, a one-month low.

The dollar dipped slightly against most of the world's major currencies, but was holding near a two-month high and was steady against the yen, supported by a sharp rise in U.S. Treasury yields in the wake of the strong jobs report.

Ten-year U.S. Treasury benchmark note yields jumped to 2.75 percent on Friday, from 2.60 percent, on the news that employers had added 204,000 jobs to payrolls last month, topping forecasts for 125,000 new jobs.

"The dollar has come off slightly, but the defining factor is the rise in the U.S. yields," said Jeremy Stretch, head of currency strategy at CIBC World Markets.

The euro was flat at $1.3375, and not that far from a two-month trough of $1.3295 plumbed on Thursday when the European Central Bank surprised the market by cutting its main rate to a record low 0.25 percent.

The euro market is focused on GDP data later this week for the 17-nation bloc and from major European countries including Germany and France for hints about the pace of the region's economic recovery after recent positive numbers.

The relative interest rate differential between the United States and the euro zone is likely to keep favouring the dollar, however.

"The dollar will be supported and, for the euro, any bounce towards $1.34 will be sold into," said CIBC's Stretch.

In commodity markets gold slipped 0.4 percent to about $1,282 an ounce, adding to Friday's 1.5 percent decline and languishing near a three-week low as expectations the Fed could soon trim its support for the economy would also reduce inflation risk.

Brent crude oil rose 0.25 percent to around $105.40 a barrel after Iran and six world powers failed to reach a deal on Tehran's nuclear programme, and after Chinese data pointed to a rise in fuel demand in the world's biggest energy consumer. Oil prices built on Friday's 1.6 percent rise when they rebounded from a four-month trough.

(Additional reporting by Anirban Nag; Editing by Susan Fenton)