GLOBAL MARKETS-Ukraine calm holds, euro dips in pre-ECB jockeying

Wed Mar 5, 2014 9:25am EST

* Stocks steady after two days of sharp moves

* Yen's gains unravel after Putin tones down rhetoric

* Russian shares, rouble fight back after early wobble

* Focus shifts to ECB on Thursday, U.S. jobs on Friday

* ADP figures softer than expected

By Marc Jones

LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - A semblance of calm returned to world markets on Wednesday after two days of intense volatility with the United States and Russia set to hold talks on easing East-West tension in Ukraine.

The West is stepping up efforts to persuade Moscow to pull its forces back in Crimea and avert the risk of a war. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that military force would only be used as a last resort.

European shares, which surged more than 2 percent on Tuesday to spur a global rebound, traded almost sideways as currency and bond markets also stabilised.

Russian stocks and the rouble fought off early weakness as investors decided Moscow was dialling down the intensity of its rhetoric over Ukraine, though Wall Street futures trimmed gains as soft ADP jobs data dampened expectations for Friday's non-farm payrolls figures.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin said he did not want political tension to detract from economic cooperation with its "traditional partners".

"Things are indeed calming down in Ukraine," said Steen Groendahl, head of global research at Nordea in Helsinki.

"Quite honestly markets have taken this in their stride. There was a knee jerk reaction on Monday but since then it has sort of been smooth sailing."

The relative calm in Crimea allowed attention in Europe to drift back towards Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank.

The euro tip-toed lower to $1.3726 having dipped overnight. Benchmark Bunds lost ground as the German bond market's general safe-haven appeal waned.

ECB policymakers remain under pressure to either cut interest rates again or use additional unconventional measures to fend off the threat of ultra-low inflation turning into something more damaging.

Analysts at Citi said in a note that their base-case expectation was that the bank would cut rates by 15 basis points to 0.10 percent, but many others think it will hold fire for now.

Revised PMI data on Wednesday showed euro zone firms enjoyed their fastest growth rate in over 2-1/2 years last month though the gulf between growth in Germany and the decline in France continued to temper the mood.

"Regional divergences remain a concern," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compiler Markit.

ENTRY POINT

German sports giant Adidas underscored the difficulties that emerging market turbulence is causing for some firms as it warned tumbling currencies such as Russia's rouble would take a heavy toll on its profits.

The tensions between Russia and the West have added extra to pressure to emerging markets. Some are already struggling to cope with investors shifting away because the U.S. Federal Reserve is reducing its flow of cheap funding.

"The big question we are all thinking about is when to go back into emerging markets," said Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation at SEB investment management. "It might take a few more weeks before we see some stability in U.S. data so we are probably still a bit away from the entry point."

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei climbed 1.2 percent after the S&P 500's record finish on Tuesday.

In the currency market, the calmer geopolitical view kept the yen on the back foot after a heavy reversal on Tuesday. The dollar was last buying 102.48 yen, moving away from a one-month low of 101.20 hit on Monday, while the euro bought 140.57 yen.

Further south, the Australian dollar gained to $0.8970 on revived risk appetite and data showing the country's economic growth had beaten forecasts.

Australia's major trading partner China also said on Wednesday it would maintain its economic growth target for 2014 at around 7.5 percent, as expected, and push forward with convertibility of the yuan.

Analysts said the statement was an indication that China would widen the yuan's trading band, further signalling a possible end to the currency's one-way appreciation .

On the commodities front, U.S. crude slipped to $103.00, after falling $1.59 on Tuesday. The contract hit its highest level since Sept. 20 on Monday at $105.22.

Spot gold, another safe-haven asset that rose on the flare up in Russia-West tensions, was steady at $1,336.45 in early European trading an ounce after dropping 1.2 percent on Tuesday.

"Gold is currently very sensitive to geopolitical tensions," said Mark To, head of research at Hong Kong's Wing Fung Financial Group.

"Some kind of pull-back is very possible given the price gains this year but in the short term it depends on the news flow."

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