GRAPHIC-Shanghai shares top performer in hectic first quarter

By Nigel Stephenson and Stephen Culp

LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) – After three months dominated by a rising dollar, interest rate cuts by 26 central banks and hefty equity gains, the big winner was the Chinese stock market.

Investors who bought Shanghai-listed A shares at the start of the year have registered gains of 17 percent on a total return basis in dollar terms. The index hit seven-year highs this week while the yuan is about flat against the dollar .

The next best returns among assets tracked in this graphic http://link.reuters.com/rar44w came from Japan’s Nikkei 225 stocks index, up 11.9 percent. European stocks, excluding Britain, gained 19 percent but dollar-based returns amounted to just 7 percent because of euro weakness.

The S&P 500 index has returned 1.8 percent.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of its peers, rose nearly 9 percent on expectations of higher U.S. interest rates.

The yawning gap in the monetary policy outlooks of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, which three weeks ago began a 1 trillion euro bond-buying scheme in a bid to spark growth and inflation, saw the euro drop 11 percent this quarter.

German 10-year government bonds, whose yields have hit record lows in anticipation of ECB QE, saw negative returns of 7.3 percent in dollar terms.

U.S. Treasuries, by contrast, returned 2.3 percent.

Brent crude oil, which was the big loser of 2014 thanks to a supply glut and slowing demand, lost just 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

A firm dollar and soft oil prices were bad news for commodities, with the Thomson Reuters/CRB commodity index down 6.8 percent.

Emerging markets equities, as measured by MSCI, were set for 1.7 percent returns on the quarter. JPMorgan’s index of emerging dollar debt returned 2.1 percent while local currency debt lost 4.1 percent.

(Reporting by Nigel Stephenson, graphic by Stephen Culp; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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