Global shares paused for breath on Friday at the end of a week that saw them gain nearly 7 percent on tentative hopes of economic recovery, while oil slipped below $54 a barrel after touching a 2009 high.

But sentiment continued to be bolstered by Thursday's Wall Street rally which saw the Nasdaq advancing to positive territory for the year-to-date.

In spite of the underlying concerns that we are in the midst of a bear market rally, the markets continue to perform robustly. It is noticeable that venerable banks such as UBS are claiming that institutional clients are now buying more stocks than they are selling, said Chris Hossain, senior sales manager at ODL Securities.

Cutting away the rhetoric and hyperbole, if you have more buyers than sellers, markets will almost certainly head north.

MSCI world equity index was 0.5 lower by 1000 GMT (6 a.m. EDT), having risen some 7 percent this week to its highest level in six weeks.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares edged 0.3 percent higher, on track for its third straight week of gains -- the first time in nearly 12 months.

Emerging stocks, which are up some 5 percent this year, eased 0.1 percent.

Emboldened by recent U.S. initiatives to jumpstart stalled bank lending, investors have seized on less dire than expected economic data from around the world as tentative signs of a global economic recovery.

Both France and South Korea posted fourth quarter 2008 economic contractions that were smaller than their initial official forecasts.

The United States released revised fourth-quarter GDP data showing the economy shrinking at its fastest pace since 1982. But its 6.3 percent contraction was better than the consensus forecast of negative 6.5 percent in a Reuters survey of economists.


The dollar reversed early morning losses to rise 0.4 percent against a basket of major currencies after Germany's finance minister Peer Steinbrueck warned that the euro could be hurt if euro zone member countries did not heed to the bloc's Stability and Growth pact.

The euro hit session lows versus the dollar after Steinbrueck said the common currency would come under threat if euro zone members did not adhere to their shared agreement guiding their fiscal policy.

U.S. crude oil retreated after touching a 2009 high in the previous session, having gained more than 34 percent since mid-February on rallying stock markets and tightening supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Emerging sovereign debt spreads were 4 basis points narrower to trade at 618 bps over U.S. Treasuries while the June bund futures traded up 22 ticks.

Markets are likely to take their cue from key events next week including the European Central Bank policy meeting and a G20 leaders' summit in London.

Later in the day, the U.S. Federal Reserve is set to purchase Treasuries for a second time since its landmark policy shift to buy longer term U.S. bonds.

(Reporting by Sebastian Tong;; editing by David Stamp)