GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares gain as U.S. data builds optimism

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 06:40 hrs

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.6 pct to one-week high

* Gold capped as investors turn to risk assets

* Nikkei struggles as ex-dividend effect weighs

* Euro hovers near four-month lows vs dollar

* European shares likely inch higher

By Chikako Mogi

TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - Asian shares rose on Wednesday, comforted by positive U.S. data pointing to a moderate recovery in the economy, but worries over the implications of the Cyprus bank bailout deal, and the losses it imposed on investors, weighed on the euro.

European markets were seen adding small gains, with financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX likely to open around 0.3 percent higher. Benchmark indices in Spain and Italy were seen likely to open 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent higher.

U.S. stock futures were up 0.1 percent to point to a modestly firmer Wall Street start.

"Europe remains transfixed on Cyprus, and while the market has moved on from the country itself, the focus is now more firmly on broader implications," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets, adding that the banking industry in Europe must change its ways.

"The banks are fully in focus and another day of weakness could have implications on other asset classes like EUR/USD, for example, given the correlation," he said.

Data on Tuesday showed demand for U.S.-made durable goods surged in February while single-family home prices logged their biggest annual increase since June 2006. Consumer confidence tumbled in March, but stock markets focused on the good news, taking the Dow Jones industrial average to a record closing high and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to just below a record closing peak.

"Sentiment is not at all weak and the U.S. is clearly leading the markets higher," said Tetsuro Ii, the chief executive of Commons Asset Management, in Tokyo.

"Europe will likely remain in the doldrums but the U.S. is recovering and China is also expected to keep its economy going under the new leadership," he said.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent to a one-week high.

Australian shares gained 0.9 percent, their biggest percentage rise in nearly two weeks, led by financials and miners.

Hong Kong shares rose 0.5 percent, supported by Chinese banks after two of the "Big Four" reported 2012 corporate earnings largely in line with expectations. Shanghai shares bucked the trend to fall 0.3 percent.

Japan's Nikkei stock average closd up 0.2 percent, after spending most of the day in the negative, after many shares went ex-dividend.

Ii said investors were beginning to turn to factors other than the Bank of Japan's monetary policy to justify buying Japanese stocks. These factors include betting on deregulation that will help spur growth in Japan, or how the yen's weakening and the Nikkei's rising over recent months will be reflected in corporate earnings when reporting starts in late April.


The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.2853, hovering near a four-month low of $1.2828 touched on Tuesday, and capped by its 200-day moving average of around $1.2880. The euro closed below the key technical level on Monday for the first time since November.

The euro underpinned the dollar against a basket of major currencies, which was nearing a 7-1/2-month peak of 83.166 set earlier this month. The U.S. currency rose 0.3 percent against the yen to 94.72 on expectations of stronger monetary stimulus under new central bank leadership following the BOJ's policy meeting next week.

Investors shifting money to chase higher premiums on risk assets such as stocks put a lid on safe-haven bullion, keeping spot gold capped below $1,600 an ounce, barely holding above its 14-day moving average.

The Cyprus rescue scheme averted an imminent banking collapse but the measure requiring bank bondholders and large depositors to take heavy losses raised concerns, notably the risk of this model being used in the future and spurring a run on banks in other euro zone countries with much larger banking systems than Cyprus's.

The island state is expected to complete capital control measures on Wednesday to prevent a run on the banks by depositors anxious about their savings after the country agreed a painful rescue package with international lenders.

U.S. crude futures fell 0.3 percent to $96.08 a barrel and Brent inched down 0.1 percent to $109.26.

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