* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
* ECB dovishness sends euro, bank stocks lower, bonds rally
* Dollar recovers from knock by yen ahead of Comey testimony
* Oil steadies, Qatar bonds extend falls after S&P downgrade
By Marc Jones
LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) - European bonds jumped and the euro and bank shares stumbled backwards on Thursday, as ECB chief Mario Draghi took markets by surprise on Thursday with a robust signal the bank had no plans to cut back its stimulus any time soon.
It was the first instalment of a packed day for markets, which includes the Senate testimony of the FBI chief fired last month by U.S. President Donald Trump, and will conclude with the result overnight of a snap election in Brexit-bound Britain.
Wall Street opened broadly steady in New York after the latest drop in jobless claims, but it had been set to be more impressive before Draghi’s caution.
Despite data earlier in the day showing the euro zone growing at its fast clip since the ECB started printing money, the ECB head played down expectations that had been building that it could soon be scaling it back.
“I want to emphasise that basically the ECB will be in the market for a long time,” Draghi said at meeting held in Estonia. Asked about possibility of reducing its asset purchases in September he added: “That was not discussed.”
European banks led a sharp stocks retreat after Draghi’s comment but another sharp U-turn hoisted them up more than 1 percent again. The rise came after signs emerged of another euro zone bank rescue, this time in Italy, as well as a pop in energy stocks as oil recovered from a 5 percent tumble.
Draghi’s comments also briefly knocked the euro back below $1.12 while bond yields slumped in Germany, hit a multi-month low in Spain and saw the biggest drop since December in Italy.
“The market’s initial assessment is that the ECB is not quite as close to policy normalisation as previously thought,” said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec in London.
The dollar was also beginning to find some traction having been in a holding pattern. The yen had landed a glancing blow overnight after stimulus withdrawal talk from a Bank of Japan policymaker, but the greenback had all but recovered as focus returned to the day’s main events.
Former FBI Director James Comey later began testifying to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee over his statement that Trump asked him to drop an investigation into the ties the president’s former national security adviser had with Russia.
Wall St markets largely shrugged off Wednesday’s written testimony releases as not toxic enough to ratchet up the threat to Trump of an impeachment.
“To be honest, I‘m absolutely staggered about the degree to which this geopolitical environment and developments are having absolutely no effect on markets,” said Saxo Bank head of FX strategy John Hardy.
“I‘m old enough to remember how nervous the market used to get about this kind of stuff back in the day. I admit I don’t know how to price it, but it’s really staggering.”
With the VIX implied volatility index, the markets’ so called ‘fear gauge’ hovering just above 10 percent, similar arguments are being made about the UK election, the race for which has tightened drastically in recent weeks
London’s FTSE was beginning to sag as the day wore on and after a solid start the pound had drew back to $1.2940
For all the speculation about a hung parliament or a Labour-led coalition, the central assumption was the governing Conservatives would slightly increase their majority, a result also suggested by recent, though divergent, opinion polls.
Spot sterling has been firm in recent days, although the jump in overnight implied volatility readings to some 30 percent – the highest since July – showed some pricing of possible risks over the next 12-18 hours.
The biggest moves of the week so far remain centred around ebbing energy prices and inflation outlooks in general.
Brent crude stabilized at $48.50 a barrel in European trading, after another steep drop briefly below $48 overnight. It is now down more than 7 percent year-on-year.
With inventories showing no easing of the global glut, a row between Qatar and its Arab neighbours is seen as undermining the OPEC consensus about production cuts to limit oil supply.
Financially, the isolation of Qatar is taking its toll on the country’s debt and currency markets. Standard & Poor’s downgraded Qatar’s debt on Wednesday and Moody’s warned on Thursday that it saw risks too if the situation continued.
The riyal currency held near to an 11-year low in its pegged band and though stocks bounced more than two percent, Qatari sovereign dollar bonds extended their losses and the cost of insuring exposure to the kingdom’s debt rose to the highest level since mid-November.
“We expect that economic growth will slow, not just through reduced regional trade, but as corporate profitability is damaged because regional demand is cut off, investment is hampered, and investment confidence wanes,” S&P said.
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
Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Jon Boyle