Shares fall on U.S. GDP data, weak earnings; dollar slides

By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) - Stock markets worldwide slumped on Wednesday after a batch of weaker-than-expected corporate results and data showing U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than expected in the first quarter, while the dollar plunged to a nine-week low.

Commerce Department data showed U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an only 0.2 percent annual rate, marking the weakest reading in a year, leading to a lower open on Wall Street.

The data also hit European shares, which already suffered from weak corporate results from companies including Delhaize and Norsk Hydro. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top regional shares was on track to close well over 1 percent lower for a second straight day.

"The mixed economic data has been a concern. The low-rate environment is a bubble in itself and it's like riding a balloon until the pin pops," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

A stronger euro also weighed on the region's stock markets, with the currency hitting an eight-week high against the U.S. dollar at $1.10990. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, hit a roughly nine-week low of 94.872 after the GDP data.

Investors also awaited the statement from the Federal Reserve's latest two-day policy meeting, due at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), for clues on when interest rates are likely to be increased.

The Dow Jones industrial average was last down 49.78 points, or 0.27 percent, at 18,060.36. The S&P 500 was down 7.24 points, or 0.34 percent, at 2,107.52. The Nasdaq Composite was down 19.71 points, or 0.39 percent, at 5,035.71.

MSCI's all-country world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, was last down 1.61 points or 0.36 percent, at 441.02.

Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index was last down 1.72 percent at 1,590.4.

Safe-haven U.S. government bond yields and European bond yields spiked higher in a global bond sell-off as investors awaited the Fed statement. Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields reached their highest since March 16 at 2.08 percent.

German 10-year yields hit their highest since March 18 at 0.278 percent after threatening to fall below zero earlier this month.

"We breached the upper end of the trading range. People are looking to unload some longs," said Sean Murphy, a Treasuries trader at Societe Generale in New York, on the sell-off in Treasuries prices, which move inversely to yields.

Oil prices rose after news that King Salman of Saudi Arabia had altered the kingdom's line of royal succession in a reshuffle that also affected leadership of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco.

Brent crude was last up 69 cents at $65.33 a barrel. U.S. crude was last up $1.05 at $58.11 per barrel.

Spot gold prices fell $2.22 to $1,209.38 an ounce.

(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever in London and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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