* MSCI Asia ex-Japan gains, Nikkei plunges 1.8 pct
* Euro off two-week lows, yen still near lows
* China January data beats forecasts, highlights recovery
* Copper, oil rise on firmer demand outlook
* European shares likely climb
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Oil, copper and Asian shares rose
on Friday after China's strong trade data set the scene for
economic recovery, although investors opted to book profits
before next week's Chinese new year holidays, limiting gains.
European markets are seen climbing, with financial
spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100, Paris's
CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX would open up around
0.5 percent. A 0.2 percent drop in U.S. stock futures
pointed to a steady Wall Street start.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside
Japan added 0.3 percent, wiping earlier losses
as bearish sentiment was carried over overnight after European
Central Bank President Mario Draghi noted risks still facing the
euro zone economy.
The pan-Asian index rose to a 18-month high on Monday. After
starting 2013 with a 2.4 percent weekly gain, the index has
consolidated in a range between a 0.8 percent rise and a 0.8
percent fall, and looked set for a weekly loss of 0.6 percent.
China said its exports grew 25.0 percent in January from a
year ago, the strongest showing since April 2011 and well ahead
of market expectations for a 17 percent rise, while imports also
beat forecasts, surging 28.8 percent on the year.
"China's economic conditions are improving and the trade
data confirms the continuation of a recovery trend. Not just the
trade data but retail, production and investment flows clearly
show that the economy bottomed out in the third quarter last
year," said Hirokazu Yuihama, a senior strategist at Daiwa
Securities in Tokyo.
Australian shares rallied 0.7 percent to 34-month
highs, led by financial and mining stocks. South Korean shares
jumped 1 percent, on track to reverse six losing
sessions as investors bought up battered shares after recent
Japan's Nikkei stock average snapped a 12-week
winning streak to close down 1.8 percent as investors took
profits from the index's surge to its highest level since
October 2008 on Wednesday. Japanese markets will be closed on
Monday for a public holiday.
"Asian markets are undergoing a pre-holiday adjustment,
keeping prices top-heavy, with many opting to book profits.
Prices have gained sharply over the past months, so a correction
is healthy. But the upward trend in Asian equities markets
remains intact," Daiwa's Yuihama said.
Chinese markets are closed next week for the Lunar New Year
holiday, while Hong Kong will resume trading on Thursday.
The euro steadied at $1.3397, after slumping to a
two-week low of $1.33705 on Thursday as investors took Draghi's
comments as signalling concerns about the euro and Europe's
growth outlook. The euro scaled a 14-1/2-month high of $1.3711
Draghi said the ECB will monitor the economic impact of a
strengthening euro, feeding expectations the currency's climb
could open the door to an interest rate cut. But he also said
the euro's appreciation suggested confidence in the currency was
Spain has already secured more than 18 percent of its
full-year medium- and long-term funding target, thanks to strong
investor demand as worries about Madrid's financing ability
"Currencies are increasingly becoming part of the policy
debate...In the case of the EUR, we believe that the bullish
'overshooting' trend will remain intact as ECB policy continues
to promote an asset market friendly environment," Morgan Stanley
said in a note.
It added that anticipation of the Bank of Japan's expected
bolder easing steps is set to keep the weak yen trend going,
supporting global risk appetite.
The dollar fell 0.4 percent to 93.25 yen but not far
from 94.075 yen, its highest since May 2010 on Wednesday. The
euro eased 0.4 percent to 124.93 yen, after touching
its strongest since April 2010 of 127.71 on Wednesday.
Friday's data showing Japan logged a current account deficit
for a second straight month in December for its smallest annual
surplus on record - evidence of deteriorating trade balances,
which support the case for yen selling.
"Japan will remain a nation of current account surpluses but
the surplus will not be as high as it used to be," said Takeshi
Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute in
Upbeat economic reports from China, the world's top consumer
of raw materials, lifted industrial commodities on a more robust
London copper rose for the first time in four
sessions, up 0.6 percent to $8,245 a tonne.
Brent futures rose towards $118 per barrel, heading
for a fourth weekly gain and U.S. crude futures rose 0.3
percent to $96.10.
"The (China) numbers are stronger than expected, which is an
encouraging sign," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC
Markets in Sydney. "(But) we will need to wait until March to
start getting a better sense of the medium-term trend on China."
Spot gold regained its footing and traded up 0.1
percent at $1,671.80 an ounce after falling on Thursday as the
euro weakened. Industrial metals, platinum and palladium
, retreated from 17-month highs.