* Wall Street expected to start higher after solid durable
* European, Asian shares at two-week high as tensions fade
* Rouble hits month high as threat of sanctions diminishes
* Euro down, bonds up after ECB easing talk
* Emerging-market stocks rise, gold steadies
By Marc Jones
LONDON, March 26 European and Asian shares
climbed to two-week highs on Wednesday, with investor confidence
getting a boost from upbeat U.S. data, talk of fresh central
bank stimulus and diminishing concern over Ukraine.
After a difficult few weeks in which tension between Russia
and the West amplified jitters about the Chinese economy and
U.S. interest rates, investors appear to be regaining their
Wall Street was expected to open higher for a second day
running, as a rise in durable goods figures joined reassuring
readings on consumer confidence and the housing market.
A PMI report is due at 1345 GMT.
European stocks, meanwhile, were establishing a
second day of gains. London's FTSE rose 0.5 percent,
Germany's DAX 1.5 percent and France's CAC 1.1
percent. Several key emerging markets also rose.
The economic data from the U.S. over the last week has
bolstered the view that softness earlier this year was caused by
bad weather, not inherent economic weakness.
Risk appetite has also been strengthened by perceptions that
tension over Ukraine is easing. U.S. President Barack Obama and
his allies agreed on Tuesday to hold off on economic sanctions
unless Moscow goes beyond the seizure of Crimea.
Investor relief was palpable in Russia. Moscow's main stock
market rallied more than 2 percent and the rouble
firmed to pre-Crimea-crisis levels a day after its
biggest gain in 1 1/2 years.
"Looking at Ukraine, it doesn't fell like a systemic risk at
the moment," said Neil Williams, chief economist at London-based
fund manager Hermes.
DIVERGING TO EMERGING
The MSCI emerging equities index saw its biggest
rise in almost three weeks, helped by the recovery in Russian
stocks and in Poland and Hungary. Both had been
hit by the recent turbulence.
Despite the uncertainty of local elections this weekend,
Turkish stocks jumped almost 3 percent. Indian shares
also reached a record high and the rupee rose to its
highest in eight months on hopes of a rebound in foreign
"We are seeing some consolidation in emerging markets," said
Thu Lan Nguyen, an emerging FX strategist at Commerzbank in
Frankfurt. "This has a lot to do with global risk sentiment on
the back of the situation in Ukraine and the conflict with
Russia. People are somewhat relieved the sanctions have not
Among the major currencies, the focus was on what appears to
be an increasingly divergent outlook for monetary policy in the
U.S. on one hand and Europe and Japan on the other.
The euro softened to $1.3794 against a broadly
stronger dollar and the region's bonds saw their yields
fall. Both were being pushed down by Tuesday's talk of
unconventional easing by some of the European Central Bank's
normally more conservative members.
The dollar got an extra push as James Bullard, president of
the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, bolstered last week's
suggestion from the Fed that U.S. rates may rise in spring next
year, saying in Hong Kong the U.S. outlook was "quite good."
Despite this week's rebounds, world shares
are heading for their worst start to a year since the early days
of the global financial crisis in 2008.
Hopes that Beijing will take steps to bolster its economy
underpinned Chinese shares and many markets linked to China on
Wednesday. Brazil and Australia were among the beneficiaries,
along with a host of commodities.
Following a recent run of disappointing data, many
economists now expect China's growth to miss the government's
target of 7.5 percent this year in the absence of effective
Mainland Chinese shares dipped slightly overnight
but remained not far from a one-month high, even as rumours of
insolvency led to a run on small banks.
"Investors are betting on stimulus because Chinese
authorities have done everything they could to achieve the
target in the past," said Sho Aoyama, senior market analyst at
The Australian dollar rose to a four-month high of $0.9241
. Other major currencies were stuck in well-worn ranges,
with the yen changing hands at 102.40 yen to the dollar.
Precious metals steadied. They had lost some of their allure
over the last week as concern over Ukraine declined and U.S.
short-term rates rose. Gold climbed back to $1,311.60 per ounce
from a five-week low of $1,305.59 on Tuesday. Silver
recovered from a seven-week low to $19.98 per ounce.
(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Hideyuki
Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Larry King)