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GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, sterling hold steady after London attack

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Marc Jones

LONDON, March 23 Stocks and sterling held their ground on Thursday as markets took the latest European terror attack, this time in London, one of the world's financial capitals, largely in their stride.

The FTSEurofirst 300 barely budged as London , Frankfurt and Paris started flat and the pound fared better than most as the dollar began to muscle higher again in the currency markets.

The history of these attacks, including those in France, Germany and Belgium last year as well those in London and Madrid more than 10 years ago, show little lasting impact on economic confidence or financial markets in isolation.

Having weakened as much as 0.4 percent after news of the London attack which killed five, sterling held steady overnight and then climbed swiftly above $1.25 after more-resilient-than-expected UK retail sales data

The dollar was also creeping higher again with attention firmly on Donald Trump's first significant U.S. policy test, as he looks to gets a healthcare bill passed in U.S. congress.

"What we are getting this week is a questioning of how much of the risk rally is predicated on future Trump policy," said Michael Metcalfe, head of global macro strategy at State Street Global Markets.

"There are concerns that this vote (on healthcare reform) will be a litmus test of how much fiscal expansion he can get through."

After losing 3.5 percent in the past 10 days, the dollar was roughly steady at 111.19 yen. It gained 0.1 percent to $1.0786 per euro and up 0.15 percent against the basket of currencies used to measure its broader strength.

The euro and euro zone bond markets' focus was also on what the European Central Bank hopes will be its last offering of cheap, 3-year 'TLTRO' funding, once its main crisis fighting tool.

Money market traders polled by Reuters expect banks to take 125 billion euros at the ECB operation although forecasts range widely from 50 billion to 300 billion euros.

Yields, which move inversely to prices, on Portuguese , Spanish and Italian debt fell 1-3 basis points ahead of the handout, continuing along with French bonds to close the spread on German Bunds.

The bigger question for markets though is will it matter once these kinds of ECB loans are no longer available to banks. From now on they will only be able to get either 1-week or 3-month loans from Frankfurt.

"Overall I do not think the absence of further longer-term operations will make much of a difference," said Francesco Papadia, the former head of ECB market operations who launched the offerings back in late 2011.

"LTROs (long term lending operations) are among the easiest measures to take, much easier than QE, so if there was a need for them the ECB Governing Council would not have too much of a problem in reinstating them."

TRUMP TRADE

Overnight in Asia MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.2 percent.

Japan's Nikkei closed 0.2 percent higher, as a weaker yen offset a political scandal over the relationship of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife with a Japanese nationalist education group that bought state-owned land.

China's CSI 300 rose early on hopes that index compiler MSCI may include A-shares in its indices, but those gains were lost as money began flowing out of the mainland market through link to the Hong Kong exchange.

Wall Street futures were pointing to modest gains later too. On Wednesday the Nasdaq jumped 0.5 percent and the S&P 500 closed 0.2 percent higher, while the Dow Jones was flat, after all three touched their lowest levels in about five weeks earlier in the session.

Trump has been trying to rally support for his plan to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic former president Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation.

Trump and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives have said they were making progress in their efforts to win over conservative Republicans who have demanded changes to the legislation. They plan a vote on the bill, Trump's first major legislation since he took office, later on Thursday.

"If he can't push through the bill, it would further damage stocks. It also raises the risk of his other policies, like tax cuts, being delayed," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

With several major currency pairs steadying after a week of losses for the dollar, the biggest mover of the day was Australia's dollar, down half a percent on the back of nerves in China's money market and a slump in prices for its iron ore exports.

The New Zealand dollar was steady at $0.7046 after its central bank held interest rates at a record low 1.75 percent, and reiterated it would remain there for a "considerable" period of time.

In commodities markets, gold dipped lower and oil prices rebounded, after touching their lowest level since November overnight on data that showed U.S. inventories, already at a record high, grew by far more than forecast.

Analysts said oil had found technical support and was being pushed up as traders took new long positions after the overnight low, but supply concerns kept the gains in check.

U.S. crude added 0.75 percent to $48.40 a barrel and global benchmark Brent climbed 0.7 percent to $50.99.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets (Additional reporting by Nichola Saminather in Singapore; editing by Richard Lough)

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