* Anxiety over imminent Syrian attack eases, caution rules
* World equities end selloff, Wall Street seen higher
* Dollar gains after U.S. GDP, jobless reinforce Fed tapering view
* Oil retreats from 6-month peak, gold off 3-1/2 month high
* Indonesia and Brazil lift rates to defend currency
By Richard Hubbard
LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Strong growth in the U.S. economy and signs of a delay in expected Western military strikes on Syria lifted world share markets on Thursday, but investors were on edge over potential future turmoil in the Middle East.
The American economy grew faster than expected in the second quarter, new data showed, and weekly claims for unemployment fell, bolstering the case for the Federal Reserve to begin winding down its massive economic stimulus programme.
Wall Street stocks were set to gain on the data when trading opens, while the dollar extended its gains against a basket of major currencies to reach a three-week high.
But hard-hit emerging currencies in India, Brazil and Indonesia were firmer against the greenback as their central banks moved to stem capital outflows.
Most major risk asset markets had already been recovering ahead of the U.S economic data on signs that divisions among lawmakers in Britain and the U.S. would delay any imminent action on Syria in retaliation for alleged gas attacks last week.
“The overall sentiment remains cautious, but the fact that military action against Syria doesn’t look imminent any more is prompting a number of investors to bet on a rebound,” said Guillaume Dumans, co-head of research firm 2Bremans.
President Barack Obama has told Americans a military strike against Syria is in their interests, and administration officials are expected to brief congressional leaders on Thursday about plans to respond.
In the oil markets, the reduced likelihood of an immediate major supply disruption saw Brent crude drop to around $116 a barrel, ending its strongest two-day gain since January 2012. U.S. oil was down 85 cents to $109.22 following its near 4 percent gain over the past two days.
“The market is reassessing the supply implications of the conflict in Syria,” said Eugen Weinberg, global head of commodities at Germany’s Commerzbank.
Traditional safe-haven gold eased 0.5 percent to around $1,413 an ounce after reaching a 3-1/2 month high in Wednesday’s flight to safety.
The better tone in world equity markets emerged after energy shares on Wall Street gained on the back of the rise in oil prices, and this spread to Asia where MSCI’s Asia-Pacific index, excluding Japan, rose 1 percent.
European stocks joined the charge higher, lifted by a surge in Vodafone shares on renewed talks with Verizon, while U.S. stock index futures pointed to further gains when Wall Street reopens later .
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 countries, was virtually flat by mid-morning in Europe, but lost two percent this week as the Syrian tension adds to worries about the impact of an expected reduction in the Federal Reserve’s stimulus policy.
Most analysts see the Fed cutting back on the $85 billion a month it spends buying bonds to boost economic activity next month, though this week’s sudden rise in oil prices and the sell off in emerging markets have complicated the outlook.
European shares meanwhile were making good gains across the board on Thursday, helped by the resolution of a political crisis in Italy and evidence of steady improvement in corporate earnings.
The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top European firms was up 0.35 percent while Italy’s main benchmark index, the FTMIB , outperformed with a rise of 0.4 percent.
However, an auction of new Italian debt showed investors remained concerned about the shaky coalition with the government borrowing costs over five years rising.
World currency markets have stabilised, with the dollar rising against major developed world currencies to its strongest level in two weeks, while the actions among some emerging market nations limited their losses against the greenback.
The dollar was up about 0.7 percent against the yen at 98.32 yen, and gained against the euro to leave the single currency down 0.7 percent at $1.3250.
“A slight easing of the tensions in Syria and emerging markets, has helped the dollar,” said Simon Derrick head of currency research at Bank of New York Mellon.
In emerging markets, Brazil’s decision to raise its benchmark interest rate to a 16-month high of 9 percent on Wednesday helped stabilise the real, while in Indonesia the rupiah strengthened slightly after its central bank hiked its key lending rates.
The Indian rupee rose as high as 66.85 per dollar, up sharply from a record low of 68.85 per dollar hit on Wednesday when its central bank moved to provide dollars directly to oil companies to give the currency some relief.
Emerging market currencies in countries with high current account deficits such as India, Turkey and Brazil have plunged between 12 and 18 percent against the dollar this year, as portfolio flows exited on expectations of a withdrawal of the U.S. monetary stimulus that has boosted riskier assets.