* European shares inch down, Nikkei slips, S&P 500 futures steady

* China retail sales bounce, industrial output slows

* Euro put on defensive by French political worries

* SNB may cut rates to restrain franc gains on euro

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - Shares trickled lower on Monday while the dollar held near 6-week highs as the febrile political mood in France weighed on sentiment, while investors awaited a string of central bank meetings in the region as well as fresh U.S. economic data.

European stocks slipped again after heavy losses last week, when French President Emmanuel Macron called a snap election hoping to ward off gains by far right and leftist groups against his centrist administration.

The benchmark STOXX index had eased into negative territory by 1107 GMT, as concerns about the potential fiscal fallout from the French election outweighed gains in tech and bank stocks.

The closely watched spread between German and French government bond yields stabilised in calmer trading, after Macron's gamble triggered a flight to safety and pushed the gap to its widest level since 2017.

European Central Bank policymakers told Reuters they had no plans to launch emergency purchases of French bonds to calm the market. "A French challenge to the region's fiscal arrangements would be problematic and have far-reaching implications," warned analysts at JPMorgan. "At this stage, the situation in the run-up to the first round of voting is still very fluid."

Central banks in Australia, Norway and the UK are all expected to leave their interest rates unchanged at meetings this week, though the Swiss National Bank (SNB) might ease given the recent strength of the Swiss franc.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six others, held around its highest since May 2, driven mostly by weakness in the euro.


Asian share markets fell as mixed Chinese economic news underlined the country's fragile economic recovery.

While retail sales beat forecasts thanks to a holiday boost, the flurry of data was otherwise largely negative, with Chinese blue chips off 0.2% after industrial output and fixed-asset investment both underwhelmed.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.26%.

U.S. shares looked set to follow the muted mood, with S&P 500 futures down slightly, while tech-heavy Nasdaq futures added 0.1% as megacap stocks including Apple , Microsoft and Nvidia rose between 0.2% and 0.6%.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have raised their year-end target for the S&P 500 to 5,600, from 5,200 and the current 5,431.

"Our 2024 and 2025 earnings estimates remain unchanged but stellar earnings growth by five mega-cap tech stocks have offset the typical pattern of negative revisions to consensus EPS estimates," they wrote in a note.

The main U.S. data this week will be May retail sales on Tuesday, where a 0.4% bounce is expected after a 0.3% drop in April. U.S. markets will be closed on Wednesday.

At least 10 Federal Reserve policymakers are due to speak this week and will no doubt address the market's wagers for two rate cuts this year.

While the Fed itself sounded a hawkish note last week, a trio of soft inflation numbers led futures to price in a 76% chance of a cut as early as September and 50 basis points of easing for the year.

The dollar was stable versus the yen at 157.45, after briefly spiking above 158.00 on Friday when the BOJ said it would start tapering bond buying a little later than many had expected.

Japan's Nikkei fell 1.9% on Monday, with investors now facing a six-week wait to hear details of the Bank of Japan's next tightening steps.

In commodity markets, gold dipped 0.5% to $2,321 an ounce , unwinding some of last week's 1.7% gain.

Oil prices held firm after the bumpy economic data from China offset hopes for a boost to demand from the summer driving season in the northern hemisphere.

Brent crude fell 3 cents to $82.59 a barrel as of 1122 GMT, while U.S. crude inched down to $78.42 per barrel.

(Reporting by Lawrence White in London and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Sharon Singleton, Kirsten Donovan)