March 6, 2019 / 9:39 AM / 21 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-China stimulus plans fails to lift world stocks; Aussie tumbles

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - World stocks consolidated gains on Wednesday after hitting a 4-1/2 month high last week as investors shrugged off reports of fresh China stimulus, while the Australian dollar took a knock from poor growth figures.

Risky assets have staged a remarkable comeback in the first two months of 2019 - an index of global equities is up 16 percent - as concerns that monetary policy would continue tightening despite a slowing global economy has given way to optimism that major central banks will remain dovish.

But despite signs of caution from the U.S. Federal Reserve in recent weeks and expectations of a dovish European Central Bank at a meeting on Thursday, analysts say the broader underlying momentum of global economic data has struggled.

"One defining characteristic of the recent market rally has been the broad lack of participation from real money funds and the broader economic cycle continues to show a slowing trend," said Shaniel Ramjee, a multi-asset manager at Pictet Asset Management based in London.

An MSCI index of global equities was broadly flat after hitting its highest level since Oct. 10, 2018 last week. An MSCI Index tracking the performance of European stocks was down 0.2 percent.

Asian stocks had a more lively session thanks to a rally in Chinese stocks on expectations of more stimulus.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose more than 1.5 percent, hovering near a nine-month high, as China's state planner said the government will boost domestic consumption further this year.

Beijing announced billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending on Tuesday to reduce the risk of a sharper economic slowdown.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.1 percent. The positive news from China also rubbed off on emerging stocks with an index rising 0.1 percent.

However, expectations of more stimulus in China failed to lift the Australian currency, an asset that typically benefits from any positive news from Beijing, as data showed the economy slowed to a near standstill in the fourth quarter.

The Australian economy expanded just 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, slower than the 0.3 percent increase economists had forecast in a Reuters poll fueling a selloff in the currency.

The Aussie dollar slid 0.8 percent to $0.7028, its lowest since Jan. 4.

"The key domestic demand components were all weak and our economists suggest the door for rate cuts has opened further," said Adam Cole, currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

In the bond markets, sentiment was a bit more cautious with longer-dated German bond yields edging lower a day before an ECB meeting where policymakers are expected to take a tentative step to shore up growth by signaling fresh stimulus to keep banks lending.

U.S. crude oil futures were down 1 percent at $56.01 per barrel after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, showed a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Brent crude eased 0.9 percent to $65.27 per barrel.

Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO, Tommy Wilkes, Dhara Ranasinghe and Helen Reid in LONDON; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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