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GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, bond yields down as growth and taper fears haunt markets

* Dollar index scales nine-month peak

* Oil, copper under pressure

* U.S. jobless claims hit 17-month low

LONDON/WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Concerns about slowing global growth, coupled with signals from the Federal Reserve it was preparing to cut back its stimulus efforts, drove stocks and bond yields lower Thursday.

Major stock indices started the day lower after two consecutive losing sessions, while the safe-haven dollar climbed to a nine-month peak and commodities, led by oil, continued a several-day slide.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.35% in early trading, while the S&P 500 fell 0.40% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.6%.

Wall Street’s pessimistic open came after Europe’s pan-regional STOXX 600 index suffered its biggest daily decline in a month. Its near-2% slide dragged the global stocks benchmark to a three-week low.

The latest sell-off comes after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July meeting published on Wednesday showed officials expected they could ease stimulus this year, even though there was division over the jobs market recovery and the economic impact of spreading coronavirus cases.

Fed policymakers were far from united in their view. But the prospect of stimulus being reduced when the rapid spread of the Delta variant, China’s regulation crackdown and supply chain issues were already dampening the economic recovery spooked markets.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 17-month low last week, but gains in the jobs market also helps nudge the Fed towards exiting an unprecedented stimulus effort that has driven stocks to all-time highs.

“Progress in the labor market is the missing piece of the puzzle for the Fed to set into motion. So while less people filing for unemployment is for sure a positive, especially in the face of rising Delta fears, there may be some trepidation as investors consider how this fits into the Fed’s plan of action,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial.

The focus now shifts to the Fed’s annual research conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next week where central bankers from around the globe gather and Fed chair Jerome Powell is due to give a speech which will be scoured for clues on the central bank’s next steps.

SAFE HAVENS SHINE

Meanwhile the dash to safe haven assets helped U.S. Treasury yields cling to recent lows, with benchmark 10-year yields at 1.24%.

Frayed nerves supported the dollar, which was up 0.1% to $1.16975 per euro after touching its highest since November 2020. The dollar index was up 0.1% after earlier trading at its highest since November 2020.

The CBOE Volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was up 1.76%.

Oil prices fell for a sixth day in their longest losing streak since February 2020, with Brent crude dropping 2.68% to trade at $66.48 a barrel and U.S. crude slipping 2.84% to trade at $63.58.

Spot gold prices last were down 0.24% to $1,783.30 an ounce.

Reporting by Karin Strohecker in London and Pete Schroeder in Washington, additional reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong. Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Nick Zieminski

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