GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares slip ahead of China data, more Fed talk
* Euro gets fleeting rise on Merkel victory, coalition still needed
* Eyes on China PMI for Sept, looking for rise to 50.9
* Three Fed officials speaking, including influential Dudley
SYDNEY, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Asian markets got off to a lacklustre start on Monday ahead of more testing data from China, while the euro had only the briefest of lifts from Chancellor Angela Merkel's landslide victory in Germany's general election.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a fraction lower following a pullback on Wall Street on Friday.
Markets in South Korea returned from holiday to play catch-up with the U.S. Federal Reserve's surprise decision to keep its stimulus program intact. Shares dipped 0.3 percent while the won was a whisker firmer at 1,077 per dollar .
Australia's main index lost 0.8 percent, while Japan's markets were closed for a holiday. The Hong Kong Exchange delayed the start of trading due to Typhoon Usagi.
In part, investors were wary ahead of readings on manufacturing activity for China and Europe.
Should the HSBC preliminary PMI for China show a rise from August's 50.1 it would add to evidence of stabilisation in the world's second biggest economy, and likely support markets across the region.
Dealers said markets were looking for a reading of around 50.9 for September and anything less would be a disappointment.
The euro rose around a quarter of a U.S. cent to an early high of $1.3555 on the news of Merkel's win, only to quickly fade to $1.3533. Against the yen, the common currency was steady at 134.40, having earlier touched 134.56.
That left the dollar index little changed at 80.387, not far from a seven-month trough of 80.060 plumbed last week.
While Merkel won by a landslide, her conservatives appeared just short of the votes needed to rule on their own.
That left open the possibility of a "grand coalition" with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who came a distant second. In the past, establishing a coalition accord has taken between four and eight weeks.
"The formation of a grand coalition could be a positive outcome for the Eurozone," said Peter Dragicevich, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
"The SDP is in favour of further Eurozone integration. As such, a grand coalition may be more willing to work with the ECB and Eurozone governments to find a sustainable solution to the issues plaguing the Eurozone periphery.
He noted one of the SDP's 2013 election policy proposals was the creation of a European debt redemption fund funded by Eurozone bonds.
SECOND-GUESSING THE FED
The Dow Jones industrial average finished Friday with a loss of 1.19 percent, while the S&P 500 Index eased 0.72 percent. MSCI's index of world shares ended Friday 0.6 percent lower, but still notched a third straight week of 2 percent-plus gains.
Some of Friday's dip was attributed to comments from St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard who said that a start to winding down the stimulus program was possible in October, depending on upcoming economic data.
That was a surprise to most analysts who had thought there would not be enough fresh economic news by the October 29-30 meeting to swing the Fed from its dovish course.
"We do not expect the economy to look much different in the coming months and, in fact, some of the data on housing could look softer," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at RBS.
He thought it more likely the taper would begin in either December or March next year.
"We think the hurdle for tightening in December is somewhat high, and thus believe that the time frame for tapering has most likely been pushed back all the way to March."
If it was March then the Fed could continue buying debt for much of 2014. That in turn would further push back the day when it might finally start raising interest rates.
Some clarity might come later on Monday since no less than three Fed officials are speaking, headlined by New York Fed President William Dudley. He is thought to be close to Chairman Ben Bernanke and to speak for the dovish majority of voting members.
Even the thought the Fed might start tapering in October jolted commodity markets, leaving gold down at $1,328.361 an ounce, from Thursday's peak of $1,374.54. Copper futures were off 0.6 percent.
Brent crude oil was 14 cents lower on Monday at $109.08 a barrel, while U.S. crude eased 16 cents to $104.59.