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GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks fall after Fed minutes, crude oil up

Ryan Vlastelica
Wednesday, 19 Feb 2014 | 4:54 PM ET

* U.S. stocks turn lower following Fed minutes

* Fed emphasizes consistency in trimming stimulus program

* Dollar rises, erasing earlier losses

* Crude oil up on expectations for lower stockpiles

NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Stock markets around the world fell on Wednesday, with declines accelerating after minutes from a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting showed members supported continued tapering of the central bank's bond-buying program barring a significant change in the economy.

The dollar rose following the release of the minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting, while gold prices fell for a second straight day.

At the meeting, the Fed ultimately decided to make a second modest cut to its bond-buying program, which now runs at $65 billion per month. It made the move despite turmoil at the time in emerging markets brought on in part by the withdrawal of Fed stimulus.

"This market is trading at nosebleed levels and so it will not have a huge tolerance even for news that can be shaded in a bad direction," said Uri Landesman, president, Platinum Partners in New York, noting that equities had scaled recent highs in part based on a belief the Fed would slow down its retracement if necessary.

"I think people are looking for any sign the Fed feels it's finally time we started reeling this endless line in."

Recent U.S. data, including figures on the housing and labor markets, has come in below forecasts, though many analysts chalked the weakness up to severe winter weather.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 89.84 points, or 0.56 percent, at 16,040.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 12.01 points, or 0.65 percent, at 1,828.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 34.83 points, or 0.82 percent, at 4,237.95.

The CBOE Volatility index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, rose 11.75 percent.

European shares closed 0.1 percent higher while the MSCI World index lost 0.4 percent after earlier trading higher.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 6/32, with the yield at 2.732 percent.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.2 percent after hitting its lowest level in 2014 overnight.

The euro rose as high as $1.3773, its strongest level since Jan. 2. The dollar later gained some ground, leaving the euro trading at $1.3737.

UKRAINE UNREST

Dealers have been surprised by the euro's resilience given speculation the European Central Bank will have to ease policy further to avert the risk of deflation.

"One could expect that if the real economy is getting up and if we see that in Germany wage increases are quite substantial, there might be a certain self-correcting trend" in inflation, ECB member Ewald Nowotny told Reuters. "So we will see whether this needs some specific action or whether ... there would be a merit for waiting."

The emerging markets focus remained on rising unrest in both Ukraine and Thailand. Ukraine's sovereign bonds and currency both tumbled as a renewed wave of violence hit the capital Kiev, adding pressure on Russia's rouble, which hit an all-time low against the euro.

The rouble's weakness stemmed mainly from the Finance Ministry's plan to buy foreign currency to replenish one of its sovereign wealth funds. Moscow shares also fell sharply.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei ended off 0.5 percent, following Tuesday's 3 percent rally after the Bank of Japan decided to expand a scheme to encourage more bank lending.

Dealers also kept a careful eye on China's central bank after it drained funds from the money market on Tuesday, though it took no new action on Wednesday, helping the Shanghai market bounce 1.1 percent.

The People's Bank of China is trying to engineer a gradual upward shift in the cost of money to encourage companies to deleverage and discourage high-risk shadow banking activity, though investors are anxious it could hurt growth.

In commodity markets, gold fell 0.8 percent while copper slid 0.2 percent. Brent crude was flat while U.S. crude futures rose 1 percent on forecasts of lower crude and oil products stockpiles due to new pipeline capacity and robust winter demand.