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Resurgent emerging markets see biggest inflows in over a year

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - A shift by investors' back into emerging market assets gathered pace over the last week, with China and Russia seeing some of the biggest demand as EM inflows reached their highest rate in over a year.

Data from Boston-based fund tracker EPFR, which monitors funds with $23 trillion in assets, showed combined inflows to EM debt and equity funds climbed to $4.7 billion in the week to April 9.

Banks and investors have started buying back into the emerging market story in recent weeks, noting that sector valuations now are cheap enough to compensate for economic weakness and political risks.

MSCI's main emerging market share index hit its highest level in five months this week, contrasting with one of the heaviest sell-offs of the year on Wall Street and in Europe, and in more than three years in Tokyo.

A breakdown of EPFR's data showed $2.9 billion had gone into EM stocks over the last week with a smaller $1.8 billion flowing into bonds.

Russian dedicated funds were the one of best performers with inflows of $164 million, up 1.8 percent in terms of assets under management (AUM).

However, they still had a long way to go to recover the outflows seen since the crisis in Ukraine erupted. AUM were at $9.1 billion verses $11.3 billion at start of the year, down 19 percent. The total amount invested in Russia was down 10 percent from January levels at $51.7 billion.

Traders say positive inflows resumed at the height of the Ukraine strife, after the main Russian stock market slumped 12 percent on March 3.

China saw a slightly higher inflow of $169 million although its bigger size meant in terms of AUM there was little material change.

"EM asset performance and reversal of outflows nicely dovetails with the positive mood for EM," said Barclays emerging market economists Durukal Gun and Koon Chow.

They added was still early though to be certain that this year's fragile sentiment towards EM markets had fully turned around saying that EM growth was yet to rebound and worries about China's slowing economy had not fully abated.

The move back into emerging markets in recent weeks has interrupted a long-running trend of investors piling their money back into developed economies where recoveries look to be finally taking a firmer hold.

Developed equities have outperformed emerging stocks since end-2010. Developed equity funds which got a record $385 billion last year, received $95.6 billion in the first quarter of 2014.

This week's data showed that things had not completely reversed course. Despite this week's carnage on Wall Street and in Tokyo, overall equity fund inflows remained strong at $11.2 billion, outshining $6.3 billion of inflows to bond funds.

(Reporting by Marc Jones)