* MSCI Asia ex-Japan stocks firmer, Nikkei jumps 3.5 pct
* Gold extends fall, hits 3-year lows below $1,200 per ounce
* Euro firmer, Aussie reluctant to come to party
By Ian Chua
SYDNEY, June 28 (Reuters) - Asian shares rose for a third
day on Friday led by a solid rally in Tokyo's Nikkei, which is
on track to end the first half of the year up a barnstorming 31
Gold, however, plumbed fresh three-year lows, leaving
investors battered and bruised after a near 30 percent drop this
year. Analysts suspect the recent leg lower was due in part to
forced liquidations of positions and quarter-end selling by
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
climbed 1.4 percent, pulling further away from
an 11-month low and wiping out this week's losses. It was still
down around 7 percent for the year.
European stocks were seen opening steady, in line with U.S.
stock futures, which were a touch firmer.
The improved sentiment in Asian bourses followed Wall
Street's rally as two more U.S. Federal Reserve officials sought
to reassure markets that any tightening of its stimulus drive
was still a distant prospect.
Japan's Nikkei average jumped 3.5 percent to its
highest in nearly four weeks, egged on by upbeat data showing
consumer prices stopped falling in May and labour demand reached
its strongest level in five years.
"Investors are cheered by the better data and see that
Abenomics is being effective for the economy," said Takuya
Takahashi, an analyst at Daiwa Securities, referring to Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe's expansionary policy.
Concerns about China's credit crunch continued to subside
with the central bank pledging to ensure reasonable lending
growth and stable markets.
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysts Ting Lu and Larry Hu
said the worst of the liquidity squeeze is over and markets
should calm down.
"No policymaker can afford to be blamed for being
responsible for an unnecessary financial meltdown and growth
hard landing," they wrote in a research note.
Mainland Chinese stocks rose on Friday.
The better mood in equity markets helped the euro push
higher, although the Australian dollar missed the party with
traders citing selling pressure from Japanese banks.
The euro rose 0.3 percent to $1.3070, continuing to
pull away from a four-week trough around $1.2984. This saw the
dollar ease 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies
The Australian dollar fell 0.2 percent to $0.9262,
within easy reach of a 33-month trough around $0.9148 plumbed on
The slide in gold, a major export earner for Australia, was
one factor keeping the Aussie under pressure.
Spot gold fell deeper below $1,200 to reach its
lowest since August 2010. It was on track to record its worst
quarter since at least 1968.
Other commodities fared better with U.S. crude futures
climbing 0.4 percent to $97.49 a barrel, while copper
dipped 0.4 percent to $6,727 a tonne.