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European stocks fall on currency strength, trade tensions

The host of what promises to be a turbulent G7 meeting

European stocks retrenched on Thursday as euro and sterling strength weighed on equity prices, as did palpable tensions ahead of an expected G7 affray over trade.

Optimism on the world economy however, reinforced by bright US data, kept a lid on losses, traders said.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt, Paris and Milan closed lower as euro strength weighed on the earnings prospects of exporters.

Wall Street stocks were mixed, with a three-day streak of Nasdaq records fizzling amid a selloff in large tech companies, such as Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent company. But the Dow finished in positive territory following a rally in petroleum-linked shares.

Leaders from Group of Seven economies will descend Friday and Saturday on Quebec for a summit dominated by world trade after Donald Trump sparked global fury by imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

That has been met with retaliatory measures from all three.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said they expect tense discussions, the while French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has referred to the G7 as the "G6 plus one," highlighting the growing divisions.

Trudeau said Thursday that Trump's reasons for imposing steel tariffs were "laughable," while France's Emmanuel Macron said governments should not be shy about making deals without Washington.

- The euro recovers -

In currency deals, the euro continued its recovery from last week's Italy-fueled plunge, with the European Central Bank's top economist saying the bank would discuss winding down its crisis-era stimulus. The comments came ahead of next week's meeting of the central bank.

"The broad moderation in euro zone economic growth in 2018 had led many investors to push out the timeline for eventual policy normalization by the ECB," said Omer Esiner of Commonwealth FX.

"Any signal next week that the bank plans to go ahead with winding down its asset purchases in the fall could add to the euro's broadly improved tone."

Brazil's Ibovespa index had a rough day, finishing down about three percent after falling as much as 6.5 percent earlier in the session.

Brazil's economy, which is making a feeble recovery from its worst recession in history, came to a standstill for more than a week last month when truckers went on strike nationwide to protest high fuel prices.

The country is being shaken by an ongoing corruption scandal that has disrupted every political party.

Markets are also concerned in the run-up to a general election in October, with centrist, traditionally pro-market presidential candidates so far making little ground in opinion polls.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.4 percent at 25,241.41 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 2,770.37 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,635.07 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,704.40 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,448.36 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.2 percent at 12,811.05 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,461.96 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 22,823.26 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 31,512.63 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,109.50 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1799 from $1.1774 at 2100 GMT on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3421 from $1.3413

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.73 yen from 110.18 yen

Oil - Brent Crude: UP $1.96 at $77.32 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.22 at $65.95

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