GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares rise as Fed fear ebbs; gold's glimmer dims
* World equity markets rise as unease over stimulus withdrawal fades
* Gold to close worst quarter on records going back to 1968
* Dollar/yen at three-week high, edges close to 100 yen
* Trade seen dominated by end-of-quarter adjustments
NEW YORK, June 28 (Reuters) - World equity markets rose for a fourth day on Friday but the quarter was set to finish in the red for stocks and other assets as fears of an early withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus made volatility spike and weighed on markets. Weakness in technology shares kept U.S. stocks flat, while better economic data from Japan and efforts by China's central bank to ease credit concerns gave other equity markets support. MSCI's world equity index rose 0.3 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 67.2 points or 0.45 percent, to 14,957.29, the S&P 500 lost 2.85 points or 0.18 percent, to 1,610.35 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.2 points or 0.06 percent, to 3,404.06. Market moves were likely to be volatile in the final trading day of the second quarter as investors pondered the likely impact of an end to the era of cheap money which had driven returns in the first half of 2013. "The market is continuing to adjust as we try to figure out what's going on with respect to Fed policy, and we should continue to see volatility as things get sorted out," said Rex Macey, who helps oversee $20 billion in assets as chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust in Atlanta, Georgia, adding "We're cooling off a little bit after a few days of strong action."
Global stock, bond and commodity markets have been highly volatile since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signalled last week that the U.S. central bank would soon cut the pace of its stimulative bond buying unless the economic recovery slows. Two Fed policymakers spoke on Thursday to reassure investors that any winding down of the Fed's $85 billion a month asset purchases was still some way off, though its ultimate course was set. Fed Governor Jeremy Stein said Friday a longer view is needed for the Fed's policy-setting committee to make a good judgment and to avoid undue market volatility, bolstering the case for withdrawing some stimulus by summer's end. Talk of the Fed 'tapering' its bond buying hit Treasury prices hard. The slump in prices started in May, gaining momentum when Bernanke suggested it could be looking to wind down its bond-buying program, now in its third phase of 'quantitative easing,' dubbed QE3. But the exit became a stampede last week when Bernanke said more strongly that the Fed could begin slowing QE3 this year as the economy gains steam. With month- and quarter-end also adding to volatility, exposure to U.S. Treasuries through the iShares Barclays 20-year-plus exchange-traded fund was set to take its hardest quarterly hit since the start of 2012. The recent choppiness could linger in markets in the next few days, said Justin Lederer, strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York, especially going into next Friday's monthly U.S. payrolls report. "That could definitely set the tone for a date for QE" to start winding down, he added. The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.521 percent, compared with 2.476 percent late on Thursday. A Reuters survey of 53 investors across the United States, Europe and Japan released on Friday found that funds had already cut their average equity holdings in June to a nine-month low due to the recent volatility and had held more cash. Gold, which had soared in value as a hedge against higher inflation from all the cheap central bank money being printed, has slumped. Spot gold prices are on track to post their largest monthly loss since October 2008, with prices at levels not seen since August 2010. For the quarter, gold lost about 24 percent, the largest such decline on records going back to 1968.
WINDOW DRESSING The end-of-quarter manoeuvring was cited for volatility in the euro on Friday. The euro zone common currency was off 0.3 percent to $1.2997 after falling to $1.2954. The broad FTSEurofirst 300 index closed down 0.45 percent to end June 5.3 percent lower after a record 12 monthly rises. Earlier, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 1.4 percent, pulling further away from an 11-month low and wiping out this week's losses. It was still down around 7 percent for the year. China's stock markets had also seen their biggest gains in two months after the country's central bank, which had let short-term borrowing costs spike to record highs, said it would ensure its policy supported a slowing economy.
Brent crude oil futures were slightly higher on the day, on track for their first monthly rise in five months. Copper edged up but faced its biggest quarterly loss in almost two years.