By Patrick Graham
LONDON (Reuters) - Stock markets inched higher for the third day in five on Friday as G20 policymakers meeting in Shanghai sought to find common ground on how to reboot a struggling global economy in the face of renewed financial and political risks.
Another day of steadier oil and currency prices <LCOc1> supported a slightly improved mood after a week marked chiefly by the woes of Britain's pound at the start of a campaign over whether to leave the European Union in a June 23 referendum.
Setting the tone for the Shanghai meeting of the Group of 20, China's central bank chief, Zhou Xiaochuan, said Beijing still had the room and tools to support the world's second largest economy. Germany, however, all but ruled out any coordinated stimulus to counter a deepening global chill.
Chinese <.SSEC> and other Asian stock markets <.N225> made guarded gains and Europe's major markets were all up by around 1 percent. The yuan currency, battered in January by speculation that Beijing would have to devalue sharply, was roughly steady.
Sterling was broadly flat on the day, however, after some initial gains <GBP=D4> <EURGBP=D4> and U.S. stock futures showed Wall Street set to open just a third of a percent higher.<ESc1>
"The focus is definitely on the G20 meeting, which has the ability to support the market, particularly the comments from Zhou ... that there is no basis for further yuan depreciation," said the head of emerging market research at Credit Agricole, Sebastien Barbe.
"It is key for them to convince the market that they are not going to enter into a currency war."
GOOD AS GOLD
With the world economy facing its most serious crisis of confidence since the global financial turmoil of 2008-9, economists and officials have raised the prospect of governments pledging together to spend more to bolster growth.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quick to declare that the scope for monetary and fiscal policy was exhausted globally and called for more structural reforms. Italian central bank governor Ignazio Visco said markets should not expect concrete action from the meeting.
"We'll get supportive statements on the growth outlook remaining decent and ... we'll hear that policy options are still available if growth were to take a much more significant dip downwards," said Alvin Tan, a currency strategist with French bank Societe Generale in London.
"But despite the likely positive rhetoric, it's going to be rhetoric. We just don't see any substantive co-ordinated measures coming out of the G20."
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> gained just over 1 percent. South Korea <.KS11> was roughly flat, while Japan's Nikkei <.N225> gained just 0.3 percent.
Wall Street's S&P 500 scored its highest close since early January on Thursday after oil staged a turnaround on speculation that a March meeting of major producers might stabilize prices.
U.S. crude <CLc1> rose 1.6 percent to $33.55 a barrel.
On the British question, UK finance minister George Osborne said that the pound's 3 percent fall in three days at the start of this week was a warning that the "Brexit" debate was "not some political parlor game".
The pound has recovered some ground since hitting 7-year lows against the dollar on Wednesday but is still down around 3 percent on the week, its worst performance since 2010.
Two key measures of global risk aversion continue to gain ground.
With one day to go in February, the yen was on track for its best month in 7-1/2 years against the dollar. Capital flow measurements from Bank of America Merrill Lynch showed the largest three weekly flight to gold since 2009.
"Marketing this week corroborates the super-high cash levels revealed in the February survey and a scarcity of bullish views," the U.S. bank said. "Everyone (including ourselves) is a 'seller into strength'."
(Additional reporting by Marc Jones and Jemima Kelly; Editing by Gareth Jones)