* MSCI ex-Japan reverses early gains, falls from 3-wk top
* Chinese, HK shares lower, CSI300 index off 1%
* Dollar softens to two-week lows
* Crude oil prices rise on economic recovery hopes
* Graphic: Global asset performance http://tmsnrt.rs/2yaDPgn
* Graphic: World FX rates http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Marc Jones
LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - World stocks took a well-earned rest near record highs on Wednesday, as an International Monetary Fund forecast of the strongest global growth since the 1970's this year and steady bond and FX markets kept risk appetite buoyant.
While rising global COVID case numbers and geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan and between Russia and Ukraine ensured it was by no means a fairytale, markets certainly had a Goldilocks feel again.
Europe's STOXX 600 .STOXX perched just below the first record high it had hit in over a year on Tuesday .EU . MSCI's 50-country world index .MIWD00000PUS was grinding out a sixth day of gains and Wall Street futures were pointing higher too. ESc1 .N
In the bond markets, there was little sign that the benchmark government yields that drive global borrowing costs were gearing up to shoot higher again. The dollar was sitting quietly at a two-week low. /FRX GVD/EUR
The IMF raised its global growth forecast to 6% this year from 5.5% on Tuesday, reflecting a rapidly brightening outlook for the U.S. economy. realized, that would be the fastest the world economy has grown since 1976, albeit after the steepest annual downturn of the post-war era last year when the COVID pandemic brought commerce to a near stand-still at times.
"Even with high uncertainty about the path of this pandemic, a way out of this health economic crisis is increasingly visible," IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said.
Overnight, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares .MIAP00000PUS had started on a firm footing, going as high as 208.46 points, a level last seen on March 18.
Geopolitical tensions in the region added to the jitters. Taiwan's foreign minister said on Wednesday it will fight to the end if China attacks, adding that the United States saw a danger that this could happen amid mounting Chinese military pressure, including aircraft carrier drills, near the island. Asian markets managed to stay positive. Japan's Nikkei .N225 closed higher; Australian shares .AXJO rose 0.6% and South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 added 0.3%.
Wall Street futures pointed to a 0.1% rises for the S&P 500 , Dow Jones Industrial and Nasdaq . The S&P 500 and the Dow had hit record levels on Monday, driven by a stronger-than-expected jobs report last Friday and data showing a dramatic rebound in U.S. services industry figures. .N
The upcoming earnings season is expected to show S&P profit growth of 24.2% from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data, and investors will be watching to see whether corporate results further confirm recent positive economic data.
All eyes will also be on minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's March policy meeting when they are published later.
The five-year Treasury yield especially is seen as a major barometer of the faith investors have in the Fed's message that it doesn't expect to raise U.S. interest rates until 2024.
Europe's bond yields also eased, with southern European debt markets stabilising after a selloff the previous session as traded braced for a 50-year bond from Italy.
The European Central Bank meanwhile will release monthly data on its conventional asset purchases and a bi-monthly breakdown of its PEPP pandemic emergency bond purchases which it has vowed to increase to keep borrowing costs low.
The dollar =USD circled a two-week low of 92.246 against a basket of world currencies. FRX/
In commodities, Brent crude futures LCOc1 were nudging lower at $62.67 a barrel. U.S. crude CLc1 was up at $59.51 and both gold XAU= and copper were off at $1,736.4 an ounce and 8,980 a tonne respectively. GOL/ MET/L
"A large share of the hopes of a U.S. growth boom supported by state aid and rapid vaccination progress has already been priced in," Commerzbank (DE: CBKG ) FX and EM analyst Esther Reichelt wrote in a note to clients.
"Further and more pronounced USD gains would only be justified if this boom also caused rising inflation rates to which the Fed would have to react with higher interest rates."
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Global assets
http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl Global currencies vs. dollar
http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh Emerging markets
http://tmsnrt.rs/2ihRugV MSCI All Country World Index Market Cap
http://tmsnrt.rs/2EmTD6j How financial markets have performed over the last week
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