EMERGING MARKETS-India leads emerging stocks higher; Ukraine fears ease

LONDON, March 7 Fri Mar 7, 2014 5:43am EST

LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - Indian shares rallied to record highs on Friday on hopes of a market-friendly outcome to upcoming elections, leading broader emerging equities to six-week highs ahead of key U.S. jobs data.

Investors are awaiting the U.S. payrolls numbers that could provide clues about the pace at which the U.S. Federal Reserve reduces monthly bond-buying. But there was some relaxation in recent market tensions over Ukraine, where many had feared the outbreak of fully-fledged war with Russia.

"There is some stabilisation after the tension that built up last week on Crimea, the worst case scenario of an armed conflict in Ukraine has been partly ruled out according to the market moves," said Cristian Maggio, emerging markets strategist at TD Securities.

MSCI's emerging markets index is headed for the fifth straight week of gains, though it is down 3 percent year-to-date.

Indian markets posted their biggest weekly gain since early 2013, as foreign money poured in thanks to better economic data and hopes that April elections will usher in a more reform-minded government.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to emerge as the single largest party, opinion polls show. Investors hope BJP leader Narendra Modi will be able to emulate his strong economic track record in the coastal Gujarat state at the national level if elected.

But emerging markets are displaying a clear divergence in performance, with Asian assets seeing strong gains, in contrast with Russia and Turkey which remain under pressure.

"The weakening sentiment on Russia could trigger a rotation out of that country's assets into economies with improving macro fundamentals such as India, Brazil and Indonesia," Barclays analysts said in a note.

Foreign investors purchased a net $208 million worth of Indian shares on Thursday, marking a 15th consecutive buying session. They have also bought almost $5 billion in Indian debt.

Those purchases pushed the Indian rupee up 1.3 percent on the week, leading gains across Asian currencies.

The picture was gloomier in emerging Europe.

Moscow shares were up slightly but headed for their biggest weekly loss since May 2012, having fallen more than 7 percent this week. Turkish shares were flat on Friday, while eastern European bourses from Prague to Budapest were down 0.5-1.0 percent .

Maggio noted eastern Europe's reliance on Russian natural gas imports.

"All of eastern Europe remains concerned by Russia's aggressive attitude towards its neighbours. There is enough on the table to keep volatility active," he said.

The rouble eased 0.4 percent, heading for its fourth straight week of losses against the dollar, even though the European Union is taking only minor steps in condemning Russian actions in Ukraine.

The Turkish lira fell 0.3 percent, facing pressure before March 30 municipal elections that could see an erosion in the standing of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The Ukrainian hryvnia however rose around 2 percent beyond 9 per dollar, having strengthened an astonishing 30 percent since the start of the week as markets bet the country would receive external aid soon.

Investors continued to pull cash out of emerging market funds in the week to March 5, with equity funds losing more than $3 billion but outflows from bond funds slowing to around $500 million, banks said, citing data from fund monitor EPFR Global.

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see )

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