GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks head higher as risk appetite returns

Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:33am EDT

* Europe higher, follows on from Asia, U.S. gains

* Core bonds little changed, U.S. dollar up

* Inflation data due out from UK, U.S.

* Investors await Fed summit later this week (Updates, adds detail, background)

By Lionel Laurent

LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Global stocks rose and money-market rates fell to new lows on renewed investor appetite for risk on Tuesday, as investors breathed easier over the Ukraine crisis and saw monetary policy remaining accommodative.

Equities are still trading broadly near multi-year highs despite the past month's jitters over geopolitical risk, with traders keeping a close eye on economic data and central-banker comments for indications of interest-rate moves after years of crisis-era rock-bottom benchmark borrowing rates.

"The situation in Ukraine is still very tense, but slowly investors are getting used to it and turning their focus back on the macro and micro data, and earnings have been quite good," said Arnaud Scarpaci, fund manager at Montaigne Capital.

Meanwhile, British inflation eased more than expected in July and the pace of house price growth slowed in June, according to data that underscored the Bank of England's message that it is in no rush to hike interest rates. Sterling fell to a four-month low against the U.S. dollar.

The MSCI World Index, which tracks stocks from developed economies, was up 0.15 percent at 1,730.01 points at 0837 GMT, compared with its all-time high of 1,765.77 points reached in July.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.34 percent, led by gains in Germany, where the blue-chip DAX index was up 0.8 percent. The index, which is traded as a proxy for the Ukraine crisis given Germany's strong trade ties with Russia, is down some 7 percent from its June highs.

Ukrainian government forces have been fighting separatists for four months in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine. A reported attack on a Russian convoy on Friday had sparked fears of Russian retaliation but none emerged.

European trading followed on from gains in Asia and Wall Street, where U.S. equities rose to their highest level since late July and the U.S. dollar index edged back toward an 11-month high after upbeat housing data.

Emerging markets also benefited, with the MSCI Emerging Market index up 0.5 percent.

German 10-year bund yields were unchanged at 1.0 percent, just above record lows hit at the end of last week, while yields on lower rated bonds dipped.

The ECB has already taken measures to keep borrowing costs low and ensure the euro zone banking system has ample spare cash, with new four-year loans (TLTROs) set to become available to banks from September. But strategists say current market prices are starting to price in further policy easing ahead.

The current environment is prompting companies to return cash to shareholders: Shares of Danish shipping company Moeller Maersk were up more than 4 percent after announcing its first buyback programme in its 110-year history, while Nestle has also unveiled a buyback.

Later in the week, investors will be keeping a close eye on Wednesday's release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting as well as comments from the Fed's summit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which starts on Thursday.

A rally in July spurred hopes the dollar was ready for a push higher, long predicted by many of the biggest investment houses, but on which it has consistently failed to deliver over the past year. That casts the steadying of the euro and other currencies so far this month as just a hiccup, but opinion in the market is divided.

"We're back in this zone really where it could go either way," said a dealer with one London bank. "The data over the next couple of days, and (Fed Chair Janet) Yellen's appearance, could be the key to breaking us out of this range, but we have been here before. This year's model is range-trading."

U.S. crude oil and Brent crude futures were slightly higher, respectively up 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent. (Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson, Anirban Nag, John Geddie, Chris Vellacott and Patrick Graham; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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