* Europe shares slip after Asia, Wall St gains
* Yen gains vs dollar but below recent peak
* Markets still wary of Crimea, await Putin speech
* Fed meeting also keeping investors cautious
By Nigel Stephenson
LONDON, March 18 European shares dipped and the
safe-haven yen rose as investors kept a wary eye on the standoff
over Crimea and a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting starting later on
The FTSEurofirst 300 slipped at the open, after
stocks gained in Asia and on Wall Street on Monday.
The yen gained but stayed below recent peaks against the
dollar and gold, also sought in times of market tension, fell.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order approving a
draft treaty on "adopting the Republic of Crimea into the
Russian Federation". He was due to address a special joint
session of the Russian parliament on the issue later, aides
Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking region of Crimea voted
overwhelmingly in a weekend referendum, condemned by Western
states, in favour of joining Russia.
In the wake of Sunday's vote, the United States and the
European Union imposed sanctions on a small group of Russian and
Crimean officials. However, markets' worst fears that the
referendum would lead to violence were not realised.
"The sanctions taken against Russia are relatively soft, and
there has been no real escalation in the tensions in the past
week, which is good news," Talence Gestion fund manager
Alexandre Le Drogoff said.
"Overall, the market has been quite resilient in this
Ukrainian crisis, but now it needs a positive catalyst to resume
its rally, and we might have to wait for first-quarter corporate
results for that."
Russia's stock market, hammered in the run-up to the
vote, edged higher, though the rouble fell 0.8 percent to
36.58 to the dollar.
Earlier, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares
outside Japan added about 0.3 percent. Japan's
Nikkei stock average ended up 0.9 percent, recovering
from Monday's six-week closing low.
The S&P 500 index rebounded on Monday from its worst
weekly fall in the past seven, ending 0.96 percent higher as
concerns eased over Ukraine and after data indicated the U.S.
economy was improving after a winter slowdown.
U.S. manufacturing output posted its biggest rise in six
months in February and this was expected to encourage the Fed to
announce it will further scale back its monetary stimulus after
its two-day policy meeting ends on Wednesday.
Policymakers could adopt less specific language to describe
conditions under which it might tighten policy, instead of the
bank's current threshold of a 6.5 percent unemployment rate. The
rate stands at 6.7 percent, though Fed officials are still
signalling that rates need to stay low to support the economy.
The yen gained almost 0.4 percent to 101.40 to the
dollar but stayed below peaks around 101.20 hit last week. The
euro held steady around $1.3940, not far from a 2
1/2-year high around $1.3967 touched on Thursday.
"In immediate focus is ... Putin's speech later today. If he
plays down an immediate annexation of Crimea by Russia, the
dollar could gain further ground on unwinding of risk aversion,"
said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief strategist at Praevidentia
Strategy in Tokyo.
China's yuan fell against the dollar on China's
problems with a slowing economy and heavily indebted corporate
sector. Spot yuan traded at 6.19 to the dollar, compared with
6.1781 at Monday's close.
German 10-year government bond yields, the
euro zone benchmark, edged lower. Yields on U.S. 10-year
Treasuries, which rose on Monday after the U.S.
data, fell 2.1 basis points to 2.68 percent.
Spot gold traded at $1,360.56 an ounce, having hit a
six-month high of $1,391.76 on Monday before profit taking
Brent crude oil edged above $106 a barrel as bargain hunters
stepped in after prices fell $2 on Monday on the reduced Ukraine