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Stocks fall, euro hits 11-1/2-year low before ECB talks

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/Remote

By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock prices around the world fell on Wednesday on profit-taking, while the euro dropped to an 11-1/2-year low ahead of a European Central Bank meeting where policymakers are expected to offer details on their bond-purchase stimulus plan.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 retreated further from record highs set on Monday while major gauges of European and Japanese shares were below their multi-year peaks.

"Given the strength we've had in the equity markets since the beginning of February, we are transitioning into a sideways-trending market as investors digest the recent gains and look for greater clarity," said Terry Sandven, senior equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

Brent crude fell on data showing U.S. crude inventories climbed to a record high in the latest week. It held above $60 a barrel on Iran's opposition to a nuclear deal and supportive market comments from Saudi Arabia's oil minister.

The U.S. government's February payrolls report due on Friday is seen as the week's premier data. Further evidence of jobs and wage growth would support the notion the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as this summer.

Payroll processor ADP said on Wednesday U.S. companies added 212,000 workers last month, slightly less than forecast, paring bets on a robust February payroll figure.

Economists polled by Reuters projected U.S. payrolls grew 240,000 in February, below January's 257,000 increase. (ECONUS)

The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield was flat at 2.12 percent, paring its decline after a stronger-than-expected report on the U.S. services sector. [US/]

The Dow (.DJI) lost 106.47 points, or 0.58 percent, to 18,096.90, the S&P 500 (.SPX) slipped 9.25 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,098.53 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) fell 12.76 points, or 0.26 percent, to 4,967.14. [.N]

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3) ended up 0.8 percent at 1,557.03, recovering from a drop on Markit's final euro zone composite purchasing managers' index that came in weaker than estimated. [.EU]

The MSCI world equity index <.MIWD00000PUS>, which tracks shares in 45 nations, slipped 0.48 percent to 429.28.

Lower stock prices moved in tandem with a weaker euro. The currency fell 0.9 percent to $1.1073 (EUR=) after touching $1.1063, the lowest since September 2003.

The euro hit a near one-month low against the yen. It was last down 0.9 percent at 132.55 yen (EURJPY=).

The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies (.DXY), hitting an 11-1/2-year peak. It was last up 0.6 percent at 95.963. The greenback, however, was little changed at 119.71 yen (JPY=). [FRX/]

Brent crude (LCOc1) settled down 47 cents or 0.8 percent, at $60.55 a barrel but U.S. crude (CLc1) settled up $1.01 or 2 percent at $51.53. [O/R]

Spot gold (XAU=) fell $4.21 or 0.35 percent to $1,199.10 an ounce, declining for a third straight day. [GOL/]

(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York and; Lionel Laurent, Blaise Robinson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise in London; Editing by Susan Fenton, Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish)