* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.4 pct, set for weekly gain of 2.3
* Euro steady around $1.2884, up 1.1 pct on week and near
* Brent crude eases but holds above $110, up 1.2 pct on week
* Japan closed for holiday, U.S. markets curtailed for
By Alex Richardson
SINGAPORE, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Asian shares ambled higher on
Friday and were on course for a weekly gain of more than 2
percent, their best in two months, after manufacturing surveys
from China and the United States raised hopes that the global
growth outlook is improving at last.
The euro was also enjoying a positive week, despite data on
Thursday pointing to the euro zone sliding into its deepest
recession since 2009, with the currency standing up more than 1
percent on last Friday's close on optimism that a funding deal
for debt-choked Greece will ultimately be agreed.
Activity was subdued across financial markets on Friday,
with a public holiday in Japan and U.S. trading curtailed by the
long Thanksgiving weekend.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan
rose 0.4 percent, with shares in South Korea
and Hong Kong both posting modest gains while
Australian stocks slipped 0.1 percent.
"I suspect profit-taking will probably be a dominant factor
at play in the market today," said Michael McCarthy, chief
market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.
The MSCI index was up around 2.3 percent on the week, its
best weekly performance since mid-September.
Confidence in the global economic outlook got its biggest
boost from Thursday's HSBC flash manufacturing Purchasing
Managers Index (PMI) for China, which showed expansion in the
factory sector accelerating for the first time in 13 months,
broadly lifting riskier assets such as stocks and commodities.
The Chinese data followed a report on Wednesday showing U.S.
manufacturing grew in November at its quickest pace in five
months, indicating strong economic growth in the fourth quarter.
PMI data on the manufacturing and services sectors in
Europe's two biggest economies, Germany and France, added to the
better tone, revealing that conditions had not worsened in
November, though both economies were still contracting.
However, the PMI numbers for the wider euro zone remained
extremely weak, pointing to its recession-hit economy shrinking
by about 0.5 percent in the current quarter - its sharpest
contraction since the first quarter of 2009.
The euro was steady against the dollar around
$1.2884, within sight of Thursday's three-week high of $1.2899.
The single currency was boosted by expectations that
international lenders will soon reach a deal to release the next
tranche of aid for Greece, although some market players remained
cautious about the risks still posed by Europe's debt crisis.
"Greek exit (from the euro zone) is very unlikely this
weekend, but I don't want to go into this weekend holding any
risky positions," said RBS strategist Greg Gibbs in a note.
"In fact, while much ink has been spilled on the U.S.
fiscal cliff, the bigger risk is still cracks appearing again in
The euro dipped 0.1 percent versus the yen to 106.11 yen
, backing away from a six-and-a-half-month high of
106.585 yen set on Thursday.
The dollar eased 0.1 percent versus the yen to 82.39 yen
, pulling away from Thursday's high of 82.84 yen, the
dollar's strongest level since early April.
The dollar has climbed roughly 3.6 percent against the yen
in the last two weeks, with the yen weakened by market
expectations that the likely next Japanese government would push
the Bank of Japan to implement more drastic monetary stimulus.
Commodity markets were quiet, with oil and
copper easing a little but staying on course to end the
week higher than they started.
Gold was flat around $1,730 an ounce.