LONDON - The euro rose to a ten-day high on Wednesday after hawkish comments from the European Central Bank, adding upward pressure to bond yields and sinking some stocks as worries over Italy also weighed.
Robust growth is making the central bank increasingly confident that inflation is on its way back to target, ECB chief economist Peter Praet said on Wednesday, increasing the likelihood it may use a meeting next week to reveal more about the end of its bond-buying programme.
Praet's comments supported the euro, that rose 0.3 percent to 1.1747.
Bonds sold off, with the yield on Germany's benchmark 10-year bond back above 0.4 percent, and was last up 4 basis points on the day.
Europe's benchmark Stoxx 600 index was flat, with interest-rate-sensitive utilities stocks among the top fallers, down 0.5 percent
Italian stocks were a notable underperformer, falling 1.4 percent.
Investors said the new government's big-spending fiscal plans, a major worry for markets over the last few weeks, were unlikely to be helped by the ECB tightening its own policy.
Italian borrowing costs also rose more than most in Europe, with the 10-year yield up 15 basis points to 2.91 percent
"Profligate ECB bond buying in the face of profligate Italian fiscal policy is an interesting conflict," said Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management. "We believe the bond buying programme will conclude by the end of this year."
MSCI's world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up 0.24 percent, mainly as a result of a strong showing from Asian stocks. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.63 percent.
DOLLAR FALLS, EM STEADY
The euro's rise put pressure on the U.S. dollar index, that measures performance against six major currencies, with the main weighting given to the euro. The index fell 0.27 percent.
The Mexican peso steadied on Wednesday, after falling to its weakest since February 2017 late on Tuesday after the United States raised the possibility of turning negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement into bilateral talks.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow also revived the possibility that the president will seek to replace NAFTA with bilateral deals with Canada and Mexico.
The threat of rising trade protectionism has already taken a toll on global trade and could increase risks to growth, ANZ analysts Daniel Been and Giulia Lavinia Specchia said in a note.
"Against this backdrop, we believe financial markets will become even more sensitive to bad news," they wrote, while recommending a defensive stance on risk-taking.
Most other emerging currencies strengthened against the dollar, already lower versus the strong euro.
MSCI's emerging market currency index ticked higher, rising 0.1 percent.
Oil prices rose on Wednesday after Venezuela raised the prospect of a halt to some crude exports, but gains were capped by reports that the U.S. government had asked Saudi Arabia and some other OPEC producers to increase output. Brent crude rose 0.6 percent to $75.86 per barrel.