GLOBAL MARKETS-Benchmark indexes up; doubt on end of Fed purchases returns
* U.S. stocks little changed after new home sales data
* U.S. dollar index gives up gains
* Treasuries prices rise on disppointing home sales
NEW YORK, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Benchmark stock indexes edged higher but the dollar fell on Friday after a U.S. government report showed sales of new single-family homes in July fell to their lowest level in nine months, raising doubts about the timing and extent of cuts to the Federal Reserve's stimulus program. . Sales dropped 13.4 percent to an annual rate of 394,000 units, well below expectations, the Commerce Department said. The housing recovery was a bright spot in the U.S. economic comeback. Europe's main stock markets were steady to higher but attention remained firmly on Asia after a torrid week that has wiped billions of dollars off emerging markets for the second time in two months. Yields on U.S. Treasuries traded lower but still near two-year highs on Friday, with investors reluctant to break out of recent ranges, given uncertainty around when the Fed might slow its massive bond-buying program. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 16/32, its yield at 2.833 percent. "This has been a very unique market situation, with the Fed stimulus being such an important component to the market rally. This is uncharted waters for us," said Gordon Charlop, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York. "So regardless of what the move is, the fact you are someplace you haven't been before is cause for uncertainty." The next Fed monetary policy meeting is scheduled for Sept. 17-18. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 6.49 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,970.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.54 points, or 0.15 percent, at 1,659.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.94 points, or 0.30 percent, at 3,649.64. Stanford University economist Robert Hall told the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that the biggest risk facing the U.S. economy is a premature policy tightening by the Federal Reserve. . MSCI's emerging share index was on track for its first gains after six sessions in the red, while selling of India's rupee subsided after the currency's worst week against the dollar in decades. "Hopefully the worst (of the emerging market selling) may now be over," said Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation at SEB investment management. He added that his firm may soon start "bottom fishing" in Asia. "It doesn't seem to be a repeat of the 1997 (Asian crisis) situation... and it seems like people are not so keen on being extremely short anymore, so it might twist around a bit." The dollar surrendered gains against a basket of currencies after earlier climbing to a three-week peak versus the yen, helped by the rise in U.S. bond yields on expectations the Fed will reduce its asset-buying program next month.
YIELDS BUILD This week's market turbulence has been driven by growing evidence that the Fed is ready to start turning off the taps on its huge stimulus program, a conviction that is being bolstered Germany confirmed on Friday that its economy grew at a muscular 0.7 percent in the second quarter, while there was more welcome news from Britain as it revised upward its earlier Q2 number. Purchasing managers surveys this week have already showed better-than-expected growth in the euro zone, a Chinese manufacturing rebound and U.S. manufacturing activity rising to a five-month high. The week's early falls meant Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 , up 0.4 percent on Friday, was poised for its first weekly drop since June, though the region has been a major outperformer recently. The rebound in Asia left MSCI's global share index up 0.6 percent, although it was not enough to prevent it heading for its third weekly fall.
ASIA CRISIS II? U.S. Treasury yields tend to set the benchmark for borrowing costs across the globe, so their recent rise - which is expected to continue as the Fed winds down support - is making it more difficult for indebted countries and firms to pay their bills. Data from Boston-based fund tracker EPFR Global on Thursday showed $1.3 billion fled emerging debt funds in the week ending Aug. 21, the biggest outflow since mid-July. Other market experts also pointed to the fact that whereas May and June's sharp sell-off in emerging markets calmed when the change in direction of U.S. market rates made shorting (betting against) those assets unprofitable, this time that did not happen, meaning the selling could run for longer. Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said it would not be in anyone's interest for very low global interest rates to continue indefinitely, as this leads to financial imbalances. "The tapering of QE and tightening of U.S. monetary policy, when it eventually occurs, will not be a bad thing for the region's economies," Tharman told a banking conference. In commodities trading, copper prices were up 0.4 percent, continuing to rise in the wake of Thursday's Chinese manufacturing data that suggested demand from the world's second-biggest economy and top metals consumer could pick up. Brent and U.S. crude found early support from positive U.S. economic data and disruptions to Libyan exports. Brent crude traded up $1.08 to $110.98 a barrel, and U.S. crude rose $1.16 to $106.19 a barrel.