* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.8 pct, Nikkei hits near 5-year
* China credit grows, supports economic recovery
* Yen remains under pressure from BOJ stimulus
* Korean tensions underpin gold
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, April 11 (Reuters) - Fresh data underscoring a
recovery in China and Wall Street's record closing overnight
boosted Asian shares on Thursday, while gold bounced off lows on
worries about rising tensions in the Korean peninsula.
The yen marked time before testing fresh lows against major
currencies as the Bank of Japan's bold stimulus moves continued
to kick in.
U.S. stock futures were down 0.1 percent, pointing to
a soft Wall Street open after the Dow Jones industrial average
and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index both ended at
historic highs on Wednesday.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside
Japan rose 0.8 percent, led by cyclical sectors
such as technology, which advanced 1.5 percent.
Hong Kong shares led their peers with a 0.8 percent
Data on Thursday showed Chinese banks made 1.06 trillion
yuan ($171.2 billion) of new local currency loans in March,
adding to evidence of an economic recovery being fuelled by
ample credit. The data followed Thursday's trade figures, which
signalled a recovery in domestic demand.
The fresh loans number "is really big and shows that there
is ample funding in the Chinese economy to support growth and is
positive for sentiment," Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist for
ex-Japan Asia at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said.
Improving growth prospects in the world's second-largest
economy, coupled with solid equities performance in the U.S.,
helped offset headwind developments events such as a unforeseen
and severe drop in Australian employment and a surprise decision
by the Bank of Korea to ignore the clamour for a rate cut and
keep interest rates steady.
Australian shares rose 0.7 percent despite the local
jobs data, which nevertheless pushed the Australian dollar down
0.2 percent to $1.0516 as investors priced in a greater chance
of a cut in interest rates.
South Korean shares rebounded from earlier losses to
inch up 0.3 percent. The Korean won briefly extended
gains as the Bank of Korea opted to further assess the effect of
the government's stimulus steps and tensions with North Korea.
"The BOK is focusing on ways to ensure that the money
circulates ... I think this may be better as this is in line
with global trends," said Ryu Yong-seok, a strategist at Hyundai
South Korea and the United States remained on high alert for
any North Korean missile launch on Thursday as the hermit
kingdom turned its attention to celebrating its ruling Kim
dynasty and appeared to dial down rhetoric of impending war.
Sentiment was buoyant across the region, hoisting shares in
Malaysia to a record high, following in steps with
other Southeast Asian shares including Indonesia and the
Philippines which marked lifetime peaks earlier in April.
The Nikkei stock average rose 1.2 percent after
earlier hitting its highest since July 2008.
The yen remained near recent lows. The dollar was at 99.58
yen and the euro traded at 130.09 yen, while
the Aussie was at 104.74 yen.
The U.S. dollar also was supported after the minutes of the
U.S. Federal Reserves' March meeting suggested Fed officials
debated slowing the pace of asset purchases or end them later
On Wednesday, the dollar hit a four-year high of 99.88 yen
, the euro climbed as far as 130.57 yen, its
highest since January 2010, and the Aussie dollar soared to
105.26 yen, the highest since November 2007.
The yen's weakness has been compounded by speculation that
Japanese investors will actively buy foreign bonds for higher
returns as the BOJ's aggressive reflationary policy pushed
Japanese government bond yields sharply lower. In particular,
European sovereign debt yields have been falling on such views.
There has been no tangible evidence so far supporting the
view that the BOJ's latest move is prompting Japanese investors
to rush to foreign assets, but that may change if returns on
Japanese bonds continue falling.
The Finance Ministry's weekly data showed Japanese investors
sold a net 1.14 trillion yen of foreign bonds in the week to
April 6, eight times the amount sold a week before, as they
cashed in gains at the start of Japan's fiscal year.
Mitsui Life Insurance, Japan's fifth-largest life insurer,
suggested it will keep its allocations more or less unchanged
this fiscal year.
Japan's Kokusai Asset Management, the manager of the
country's biggest mutual fund, said it will retain a high
exposure to the United States but has no plans to sharply
increase its exposure to U.S. debt.
Noting which Japanese investor is affected by the BOJ's
stimulus is key in gauging capital outflows from Japan, said
Osamu Takashima, chief FX strategist at Citibank.
Life insurers and pension funds, rather than retail
investors, are most affected as the BOJ aims to push down yields
of longer-dated bonds, which are heavily invested in by these
"With the U.S. yield curve flattening recently, there may
come a point when hedged foreign bond investment no longer works
and prompts insurers to take full currency risks," he said.
Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,559.86 an ounce.
U.S. crude futures fell 0.3 percent to $94.38 a
barrel while Brent eased 0.2 percent to $105.60.