* Oil extends declines on escalating Middle East tensions
* European stocks set for subdued start
* Dollar hits seven-month low amid investor caution
* Euro, sterling rise ahead of ECB meeting, UK election
* Asia ex-Japan stocks slip, Nikkei stumbles on stronger yen
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, June 6 Escalating tensions in the
Middle East and the coming testimony of the former FBI director,
British elections and a European Central Bank meeting all took
their toll on oil, the dollar and Asian stocks on Tuesday.
European stocks were headed for a subdued start, with
financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain's FTSE 100
and France's CAC 40 to open flat. Germany's DAX
is predicted to start the day down 0.1 percent.
Oil fell back following a brief recovery after Saudi Arabia
and several other Arab states severed ties with Qatar, accusing
it of supporting extremism and undermining regional stability.
"A potential risk to monitor might be that Qatar will view
this as being provided with less encouragement to comply with
the agreed (OPEC) production quota," said Jameel Ahmad of
futures brokerage FXTM.
Stocks in Qatar plunged more than 8 percent overnight to
their lowest since January 2016.
U.S. crude was 0.5 percent lower at $47.18 a barrel
on Tuesday, after falling 0.55 percent on Monday.
Global benchmark Brent retreated 0.4 percent to
$49.26, extending Monday's 1 percent slide.
The dollar index touched a seven-month low ahead of
testimony before the U.S. Congress from former FBI director
James Comey on Thursday.
There will be intense interest in what Comey might say about
his conversations with U.S. President Donald Trump about an
investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn,
who was fired for failing to disclose conversations with Russian
"The dollar is already on the defensive after Friday's jobs
data, and now it's facing potential geopolitical risk in the
form of Comey's testimony," said Bart Wakabayashi, Tokyo Branch
Manager of State Street Bank.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against
a basket of trade-weighted peers, fell to its lowest level since
the November U.S. election. At 0524 GMT, it was down 0.2
percent, to 96.611.
The dollar slid 0.5 percent to 109.90 yen on
Tuesday, close to the six-week low hit earlier in the session.
News on Monday of U.S. services sector activity slowing in
May as new orders tumbled also hit the dollar.
The dollar further came under pressure from a stronger euro,
on expectations the European Central Bank will take a less
dovish tone than in the past at its Thursday meeting.
The ECB may even discuss dropping some of its pledges to
ramp up stimulus if needed, four people with direct knowledge of
the discussions told Reuters last week.
The common currency was 0.1 percent higher at
$1.127 on Tuesday.
Sterling advanced 0.2 percent to $1.293 on Tuesday.
The lead of British Prime Minister Theresa May over the
opposition Labour Party ahead of Thursday's general election has
narrowed to just 1 percentage point, according to a poll
conducted before the attacks in London on Saturday.
Other polls in recent days have found bigger leads for the
Conservatives of up to 11 and 12 points.
"Even if May does just about enough to increase the majority
- that could still potentially be sterling positive," said ING
currency strategist Viraj Patel.
The weaker dollar lifted gold, with spot gold hitting
a six-week high earlier on Tuesday and last trading up 0.4
percent at $1,284.74 an ounce.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
lost 0.15 percent, pulling back from a two-year
high hit on Monday.
Japan's Nikkei dropped 0.6 percent, tripped by a
South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.
Australian shares tumbled 1.4 percent.
The Australian dollar pared earlier losses - made
after the second-quarter current account deficit disappointed
investors hoping for a surplus - to trade flat at $0.7489 after
the Reserve Bank of Australia kept its benchmark rate at a
record low 1.5 percent, as expected.
Chinese shares and Hong Kong shares bucked
the trend, rising almost 0.1 percent and 0.35 percent
Overnight, Wall Street indexes slipped between 0.1 percent
and 0.2 percent, with Apple Inc. leading losses on the
Dow Jones Industrial Average.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by
Shinichi Saoshiro, Henning Gloystein and Ritvik Carvalho;
Editing by Eric Meijer and Richard Borsuk)