Stocks go nowhere after European Central Bank signals steady rates till next summer

EUR  CHF

A man looks at a mobile phone next to an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 23, 2018.

Confirmation that the European Central Bank would end its crisis-era bond-buying stimulus provided only little support as that announcement had been widely expected.

Asian shares wobbled on Friday as investors braced for USA tariffs against China, while the euro flirted with two-week lows after a cautious European Central Bank indicated it would not raise interest rates for some time.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index raced back into positive territory after a morning in the red, though basic resources stocks stayed down more than 1 percent after weak data from big metals consumer China.

In Europe, the euro had dived to $1.1580 Thursday from above $1.1800 - but recovered to above $1.16 at one point Friday. Euro zone government borrowing costs slid too as traders recalibrated prices for a longer period of sub-zero European Central Bank rates.

The Federal Reserve had on Wednesday said that it would likely hike U.S. rates twice more this year and four times in 2019, highlighting an increasing divergence between the two central banks.

Germany's Bunds were offering 0.46 percent compared with 0.49 percent before the European Central Bank statement.

The ECB's benign stance contrasts with the steady rate hike campaign pursued by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Consumer sentiment and manufacturing numbers are out in the US. Others reckon the policy makers may refrain from signalling changes to ECB's stimulus program given Italy's political plight and a recent spate of disappointing data in the euro zone.

However the bank's decision may not be as straight-forward as some might think.

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Another issue that will keep investors in check is concern about US threats to impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods. That's after President Donald Trump last month imposed steel and aluminum taxes on the US's closest allies.

Next up on the global calendar is the Bank of Japan, which meets Friday on interest-rate policy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.65 percent lower, with Chinese stocks leading the losses.

The single currency stabilised on Friday, trading up 0.1 percent against a broadly strong dollar at $1.1573.

In a rare merging of the sports and trading worlds, markets are gearing up for football's World Cup in Russian Federation, where time zone differences mean more matches during European, U.S. and Latin American trading hours than any previous tournament. Russia's timezones mean there will be more matches during European or US and Latin American trading hours than any previous tournament.

A study done during the last World Cup with similarly timed games, the 2010 finals in South Africa, showed trading volumes on share markets dropped by a third on average when matches were on and 55 percent when a market's own team played.

EUR/USD Exchange Rate Forecast: US Retail Sales to Strengthen the US Dollar? S&P 500 and Dow Jones and Nasdaq futures were lifted by the ECB's signals and all pointed to slightly higher restart having been lower earlier.

The common currency shed 1.9% to the dollar after the rate comments, in its sharpest daily fall in the nearly two years since the Brexit vote shock in 2016. The dollar gained against a basket of peers.

The outbreak of a global trade war has been the most frequently cited "biggest tail risk" by investors this year in Bank of America Merrill Lynch's monthly survey of global fund managers, on the back of ramped up protectionist rhetoric and measures by the USA administration.

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