By Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - Revived appetite for emerging markets helped Asian stocks hit a near six-month high on Wednesday, driving more modest gains in Europe and other developed markets, where future stimulus looks less clear-cut.
It was an easier start for European bourses after a difficult couple of days during which tensions have escalated in Ukraine and the European Central Bank has tempered expectations of a new asset-buying program.
The pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> rose 0.6 percent as the main markets in London <.FTSE>, Paris <.FCHI> and Frankfurt <.GDAXI> helped claw back some of the 1.2 percent the FTSEurofirst has lost so far this week.
In the currency market, the euro and sterling both remained firm as the dollar retook a bit of the ground it has lost against a rallying yen in recent days.
The International Monetary Fund predicted on Tuesday the global recovery would strengthen this year and next as output in richer nations picked up.
But it was emerging markets that got the thumbs-up from investors again on Wednesday.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced almost 1 percent <.MIAPJ0000PUS> to its highest level since late October, helped by another EM outperformance <.MSCIEF>, both in stocks and currencies.
Talk that China could be readying new economic support measures has helped investors largely put aside worries about geopolitics and slowing U.S. stimulus that fuelled a turbulent start to the year for emerging assets.
The South Korean won led Asian currency gains on Wednesday as it hit a near six-year high thanks to capital inflows, while the Indonesian rupiah rose as parliamentary elections started.
"The divergence (in performance) between developed market and emerging market assets and currencies has continued," analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a note to clients.
"A rotation from growth to value assets is being broadly cited as putting major DM equity markets under pressure."
GREECE IS THE WORD
Core euro zone bonds were under pressure in early European trading.
But periphery debt was back in favor as chatter focused on talk Greece was poised to announce its return to bond markets, just two years after a spectacular default that saw investors lose 70 percent of their cash.
Greece has hired a group of banks to manage the sale of a 2 billion euro five-year bond, Thomson Reuters markets service IFR reported last week, a move sources said would now happen on Thursday.
"The fact that Greece is returning is good news for the periphery in general," one trader said. The yield on Greek 10-year bonds traded at 5.995 pct, its lowest since prior to its first bailout in 2010.
Nervousness about Ukraine failed to temper the revival of risk appetite. The United States accused Russian agents and special forces on Tuesday of fomenting unrest, saying Moscow could be eyeing military action as it had in Crimea.
The dollar stood at 102.00 yen, off a three-week trough of 101.55 hit on Tuesday and a long way off the 2-1/2 month high of 104.13 against the Japanese currency it touched on Friday.
The British pound's strong run has also been a focus in currency markets in recent sessions.
It was little changed and buying $1.6744 at 0815 GMT having jumped on Tuesday after strong industrial output data and glowing comments from the IMF had stirred expectations for the Bank of England to raise rates ahead of its peers.
"While the strength of the yen has likely caught many participants wrong-footed and runs counter to the underlying theme favoring carry strategies and risk assets, it may be the pound that is the most surprising," currency strategists at Brown Brothers Harriman wrote in a note to clients.
In the commodities markets, gold traded near a two-week high after rising 1 percent on Tuesday thanks to the sharply lower dollar and the renewed tensions in Ukraine.
Spot bullion traded at $1,310.30 an ounce, not far off Tuesday's session high of $1,314.43.
The events in eastern Ukraine also provided some support for oil by fuelling fears that tensions between Moscow and Western powers may disrupt supply from Russia, one of the world's top oil exporters.
Brent stood little changed at $107.34 a barrel, holding most of the gains made when it surged 1.7 percent on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by John Stonestreet)