GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares set for best week in 2 months as outlook improves

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2012 02:50 hrs

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.4 pct, set for weekly gain of 2.3 pct

* Euro steady around $1.2884, up 1.1 pct on week and near 3-week high

* Brent crude eases but holds above $110, up 1.2 pct on week

* Japan closed for holiday, U.S. markets curtailed for Thanksgiving

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 Europe."

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.

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