GRAPHIC-Commodities, frontier markets top first quarter investment league

LONDON, March 31 Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:18am EDT

LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - Commodities and frontier market stocks were the best-performing investments in the first quarter of 2014 while Shanghai and Tokyo shares as well as copper are at the bottom of the league table.

The Reuters-Jefferies CRB commodity index, made up of 19 key commodities, rose 9 percent. The gains came after the index's 5 percent drop last year attracted many investors.

Gold has risen 7.3 percent, following a 28 percent drop last year. Investors turned to the safe-haven asset when tensions between Russia and the West escalated over Ukraine.

Click on the link to see the graphic on global asset performance, based in dollars: link.reuters.com/pat75v

The MSCI frontier equity index rose 7.2 percent, with buoyant growth in newly developing economies spurring portfolio inflows. It also benefited from investors shifting out of major emerging markets, which have been hit by a stimulus wind-down from the Federal Reserve.

Italy's 10-year government bonds rose 7 percent, beating German and U.S. counterparts.

High-yielding peripheral euro zone debt has been rallying thanks to the region's recovering economies, with Italian yields hitting 8-1/2 year lows of 3.261 percent on Friday.

Concerns over China have weighed on many markets geared specifically towards the world's second biggest economy.

Copper was the biggest victim as it bucked other commodities to fall nearly 10 percent. The metal hit a 3-1/2 year low this month after a bond default by a Chinese solar panel marker stoked fears about more defaults, unravelling demand for copper as collateral in financial deals.

Tokyo's Nikkei index fell 7.2 percent on a dollar basis to become the second worst performer in the past three months.

One of the top investments in 2013, the Nikkei unwound some of last year's 30 percent gains as the economic slowdown in emerging partners and caution over a sales tax hike in Japan pushed investors away from risky assets.

Performance in emerging markets was mixed in a quarter of significant volatility. Emerging dollar and local currency debt both eked out gains, but emerging stocks fell 1.4 percent. (Reporting by Natsuko Waki; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)