Global equities and commodity prices fell on Thursday after robust Chinese economic growth prompted fears the world's second-largest economy would try to choke off excessive demand that is fueling inflation.

Fears China would tighten monetary policy were felt across multiple asset classes after the country's fourth-quarter gross domestic product soared past forecasts, rising to 9.8 percent.

A rise in U.S. financial shares, led by Morgan Stanley, helped cut Wall Street's losses, although all three major indexes fell. A disappointing outlook for F5 Networks -- a leader in so-called cloud computing to move information away from desktops and into remote centers -- contributed a negative counterweight that dragged the Nasdaq market lower.

The tug of war continued during the course of the day with techs and financials -- the two big behemoths in terms of bellwethers for the market -- slugging it out, Joseph Benanti, managing director of Rosenblatt Securities in New York said about the U.S. stock market moves.

We had a lot of movement on hot news that will subside. Cloud stocks are important, but they are not going to drive all technology. And the financials are a bigger sector to follow and are starting to hold their own.

The losses, while minor, extended Wednesday's intraday decline for the broad S&P 500 stock index, the worst in nearly two months.

At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 2.49 points, or 0.02 percent, to 11,822.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 1.66 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,280.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 21.07 points, or 0.77 percent, at 2,704.29.

On the plus side, shares in No. 2 U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley , which posted a 60 percent increase in quarterly profit, rose 4.57 percent to $29.02 a share.

Among the U.S. networking/cloud stocks, F5 Networks fell 21.35 percent to $109.15 on weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue and a gloomy forecast. [ID:nSGE70H0CM]

Hit hard however by expectations China will ramp up anti-inflationary measures were emerging market equities, down 1.55 percent <.MSCIEF>. Materials, mining and car companies fell on concern demand from China's factories may slacken.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc lost 3.7 percent to $110.90 after the copper producer trimmed its sales forecast and said costs would rise. Ford Motor fell 0.67 percent

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares closed down 1.11 percent at 1,139.63 points - its lowest since January 11.

Japan's Nikkei <.N225> closed 1.1 percent lower on Thursday. However, futures trading in Chicago pointed to a stronger open in Tokyo on Friday, up 15.00 at 10,500.

Oil prices fell $2 to settle at $88.86 a barrel in New York. Copper had its worst day in two months.

Spot gold fell $24.41, or 1.78 percent, to a two-month low of $1,345.40.


A stronger-than-expected rise in existing home sales and a fall in new claims for jobless benefits could not boost U.S. stocks but did help lift the U.S. dollar.

The euro managed to grab the edge back from the U.S. dollar in late day trade, but the greenback advanced against a broad basket of currencies made up of its major trading partners, including the yen.

Earlier on Thursday, the euro was supported by expectations the European Union would come up with a comprehensive plan to help debt-laden countries finance their overwhelming obligations.

The euro rose 0.04 percent at $1.3471.

We are finally seeing some growth and we have to at least think about when the Federal Reserve will (tighten) policy, even though it won't happen soon, said Jens Nordvig, global head of G10 FX strategy at Nomura.

As such, it's possible to make money from a broad-based dollar exposure through a basket including yen, the Aussie and Canadian dollars and sterling, he said. The greenback has struggled against all those currencies in recent months.

The U.S. dollar index climbed 0.22 percent <.DXY>, while the greenback rose 1.16 percent to 83.1 yen.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar gained more than 1 percent to 0.9673 francs.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries fell 28/32, pushing the yield up to 3.45 percent. The price decline accelerated after a poorly received $13 billion sale of inflation-protected Treasuries.

(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak, Emily Flitter, Steven C. Johnson, Gene Ramos; Editing by Andrew Hay)