April 8, 2019 / 4:01 PM / 2 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks mostly flat on profit concerns, oil gains

(Updates U.S. market; adds byline; dateline previously LONDON)

* Stocks hit 6-month high then turn little changed

* Oil hits 5-month high on Libya fighting, OPEC cuts

* Greece 10-year bond yields near 13-year lows

* Graphic: World earnings growth expectations tmsnrt.rs/2I5yaRq

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, April 8 - A gauge of global equities was mostly flat on Monday as another drop in Boeing shares and concerns U.S. companies will report a decline in earnings for the first time in three years were offset by rising crude prices that lifted oil shares.

Oil prices rose to their highest since November, driven by fighting in Libya along with ongoing supply cuts pledged by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, gained more than 1 percent while global benchmark Brent rose almost as much, lifting the energy components of the FTSE 100 index in London and the S&P 500 on Wall Street.

But U.S. stocks retreated from the S&P 500's seven-day winning streak as investors braced for what could be the first decline in corporate profits since 2016 as the quarterly reporting of earnings begins in earnest at the end of the week.

This earnings season will pit negative profit expectations against this year's stock rally, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

"The market is going to struggle to continue to find catalysts to move at this pace. It's been a great start and a lot of good news already priced into the stock market," Arone said, referring to the S&P 500's 15 percent gain year-to-date.

If earnings come in better than expected and are positive, that could provide more upside to equities if the U.S.-China trade war is resolved and economic data remains solid, he said.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.04% after earlier hitting a six-month high, while in Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares fell 0.2%.

Shares fell as data showed German exports and imports fell more than expected in February, the latest sign that Europe's biggest economy will likely post meager growth for the first quarter.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 116.08 points, or 0.44%, to 26,308.91. The S&P 500 declined 6.23 points, or 0.22%, to 2,886.51 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 13.02 points, or 0.16%, to 7,925.67.

The dollar fell against a basket of currencies as recent strong economic data eased worries about global growth and led investors to reduce safe-haven positions in the greenback.

The euro moved further above a one-month low set last week as investors squared positions before a European Central Bank meeting this week.

The dollar index fell 0.33%, with the euro up 0.4% at $1.1259. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.22% versus the greenback to 111.47 per dollar.

U.S. Treasury debt prices edged lower in generally quiet trading, pressured by upcoming government debt and corporate supply.

Ten-year Greek government bond yields were near their lowest in more than 13 years as encouraging headlines boosted sentiment toward the country and zero percent German Bund yields pushed investors into riskier assets before an ECB meeting on Wednesday.

Greece's 10-year bond yield dropped one basis point to 3.53%, just shy of a 3.50% reading that would be its lowest yield since January 2006.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 90 cents to $63.98 per barrel. Brent gained 55 cents to $70.89 per barrel.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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