REFILE-GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian steady after positive factory data, yen hits lows

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 00:30 hrs

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan steady, Nikkei opens up 1.7 pct

* Yen hits fresh lows vs dollar and euro

* Samsung Electronics posts record profit

By Chikako Mogi

TOKYO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Asian shares were steady on Friday after solid global economic data boosted investor appetite for riskier assets, while the yen hit fresh lows on expectations Japan will pursue bold policies to beat deflation and stimulate growth.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed, with Australian shares rising 0.3 percent after earlier hitting a fresh 21-month high for an eighth straight session of gains.

South Korean shares opened up 0.1 percent, with the focus on Samsung Electronics Co's earnings results after rival Apple Inc's below-estimate results sent shares of Asian tech companies lower on Thursday.

Samsung posted a record quarterly profit and kept 2013 investment plan at the previous year's level, defying market expectations of a cut amid waning demand for computer chips and rival Apple's move to buy fewer of its microprocessors used in the iPhone and iPad.

The yen's slide after its brief rebound this week bolstered sentiment for Japanese equities as it lifts earnings prospects for exporters, ahead of the quarterly earnings season set to start next week. Japan's Nikkei stock average opened 1.7 percent higher.

"Right now, trading cues are basically these two -- currency moves and quarterly earnings," said Hiroichi Nishi, assistant general manager of equity research at SMBC Nikko Securities.

The dollar scaled its highest since June 2010 of 90.695 yen early on Friday while the euro rose to 121.32, its highest since April 2011. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new administration has made clear it wants to correct the excessive strength of the yen, providing investors a reason to be short the currency.

The yen has declined sharply since mid-November on expectations the new government will implement aggressive monetary easing and huge fiscal spending polices to end decades of deflation and return Japan to a sustainable growth path.

More than 80 percent of Japanese firms are in favour of Abe's policy mix, though most also feared Japan would face a debt crisis within a few years, according to a Reuters poll.

"JPY weakness should continue over the coming year driven by an expansion of the Bank of Japan's balance sheet relative to the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve," said Kit Juckes, FX strategist at Societe Generale in a note. "I don't know how long the USD/JPY is going to pause at around 90, but a move to 100 still seems very likely in the longer run."

Solid data from the United States and Germany after similarly upbeat manufacturing figures from China, cemented an improving outlook for the global economy, lifting world equity and commodity markets.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index briefly topped the symbolic 500 mark for the first time since December 2007 for a seventh straight session in the longest winning streak since October 2006, while European shares hit their 2013 peak.

U.S. factory activity grew the most in nearly two years in January and the number of new claims for jobless benefits dropped to a five-year low last week, while a business survey data from Germany showed its private sector expanding at its fastest pace in a year this month.

U.S. crude steadied around $95.98 a barrel.

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