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By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets edged higher on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin of Russian sounded a conciliatory note over the crisis in Ukraine, while bond yields in Europe fell to record lows as the euro zone's recovery stalled in the second quarter.
Putin told Russian ministers and members of parliament in Crimea that Russia would stand up for itself but not at the cost of confrontation with the outside world, easing off months of tough rhetoric over Ukraine.
Stocks on Wall Street opened slightly higher, following gains in Europe, where equity markets have tumbled in past weeks over fears of an escalation of tensions between the West and Moscow over Ukraine.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.27 percent higher at 1,329.04, and MSCI's all-country world index rose 0.3 percent.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 20.36 points, or 0.12 percent, at 16,672.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.09 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,950.81. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.72 points, or 0.20 percent, at 4,442.84.
Bond yields dropped to record lows across the euro zone, and the euro hovered near its weakest in nine months after Germany reported its economy shrank in the second quarter, fueling expectations of more European Central Bank stimulus.
German 10-year bond yields briefly traded below 1 percent for the first time, according to traders who contribute data to trading platforms, while Spanish and French bond yields also plumbed record lows.
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose 5/32 in price, pushing the yield down to 2.4104 percent.
A surprise 0.2 percent contraction in economic output in Germany, the euro zone's growth engine, and stagnation in France halted the currency bloc's recovery. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the euro zone to eke out a 0.1 percent quarterly expansion. [ECONEZ]
Persistent fears about Russia's aid convoy to eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and the West reckon could be a pretext for an invasion, also helped intensify demand for lower-risk U.S. and German government debt.
"These events are pushing German and global yields lower," said Andrew Mulligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments in London. "Some of the engines of growth in Europe, especially Germany, are slowing. France and Italy are showing stagnation."
The euro rose above nine-month lows against the dollar, trading 0.16 percent stronger at $1.3385. The Japanese yen traded near break-even at 102.42.
Brent oil fell by more than $1 to below $103 a barrel, just above its year low, as higher U.S. jobless claims and Germany's economic contraction highlighted weak demand, while supplies are ample despite conflicts in Iraq and Libya.
Brent crude for delivery in September was down $1.63 $102.65.
U.S. crude for September delivery was down $1.30 cents at $96.29 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London, Reporting by Herbert Lash)