* Greenback hits two-month high versus yen
* Google shares fall 9 percent after earnings
* Spanish benchmark yield ticks lower after auction
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Global shares were little changed in choppy trading on Thursday with a European benchmark at a 15-month closing high as tension surrounding the euro zone’s debt crisis continued to ease.
But U.S. stocks fell after Google shares tumbled 9 percent following its quarterly results, adding to caution after a rise in weekly jobless claims. However, the benchmark S&P 500 remains within striking distance of its 2012 closing high of 1,465.77.
Risk-taking received a boost in Europe after Italy sold a whopping 18 billion euros in its “biggest result ever for a single bond sale” according to a Treasury spokesman, while Spain paid the least since February to borrow over 10 years.
The euro eased slightly against the dollar, but the euro zone common currency hit a five-month high against the yen in what has been a strong run as expectations grow that Spain will ask for financial aid before long.
U.S. stocks found support earlier from Verizon Communications after it said revenue was slightly above expectations while another Dow component, Travelers, posted operating earnings that were much stronger than expected.
“Third-quarter earnings are not spectacular, that’s for sure, but the bar is so low that as long as the businesses aren’t falling apart, the earnings aren’t collapsing, that is good enough to keep the stock prices pretty much where they are at,” said Doug Foreman, director of equities at Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management in Los Angeles, California.
Data showing China likely hit the bottom of a seven-quarter-long economic downturn helped major averages in Asia and gave support to global equities. Data for key areas such as retail sales and industrial output did much better than forecast, pointing toward a recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 20.73 points, or 0.15 percent, to 13,536.27. The S&P 500 dropped 5.47 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,455.44. The Nasdaq Composite fell 34.33 points, or 1.11 percent, to 3,069.79.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares rose 0.17 percent to close at its highest since early July 2011. An MSCI index of global stocks traded near break even, close to its highest since mid September.
The dollar climbed to a two-month high against the yen after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of business conditions in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region rose in October to 5.7 from -1.9 in September, snapping five months of negative readings that pointed to contraction.
The euro also weakened against the greenback as the U.S. job market data overshadowed favorable demand at a Spanish bond sale.
“The miss in weekly jobless claims undermines some of the recent risk appetite seen in markets,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington. “It dashed some of the recent optimism.”
The single currency fell 0.4 percent on the day to $1.3065, not too far from Wednesday’s one-month peak of $1.3139. Traders reported large option expiries at $1.3100, which may influence trade, keeping the euro close to that level.
A French government source said a decision in principle on a euro zone banking union was likely to be reached at a Thursday summit of European leaders, but further details would be discussed later this year.
Moves to help Spain, Greece and Cyprus may come only at a finance ministers’ meeting next month, officials have told Reuters.
Spanish government bond yields fell after strong demand at a debt sale further fueled an improvement in sentiment toward the country, which hung on to its investment-grade credit rating this week.
Ten-year Spanish bonds yields, which exceeded 7.6 percent in late July before the ECB promised to act, eased 15 basis points on the day to 5.35 percent, their lowest since April.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was flat on the day, its yield at 1.8203 percent.