* Nikkei turns negative as momentum stalls
* Chinese and South Korean shares push higher
* Japan's Q1 growth beats forecasts
* Euro in doldrums after dour euro zone economic data
By Ian Chua
SYDNEY, May 16 (Reuters) - Most stock markets in Asia edged
up on Thursday after solid growth data from Japan improved
sentiment, although Tokyo's Nikkei lagged, while worries about a
prolonged recession in the euro zone kept the common currency
Financial spreadbetters expect Britain's FTSE 100 to
open 1 to 3 points lower, Germany's DAX to open down 11
to 12 points, or as much as 0.1 percent, and France's CAC 40
to open 6 to 7 points lower, or as much as 0.2 percent.
U.S. stock futures were marginally weaker, pointing
to a soft opening on Wall Street after the Dow and S&P
500 hit fresh record highs on Wednesday.
Mainland China stocks rose 1.4 percent and South
Korean shares gained 0.8 percent, while MSCI's broadest
index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan held
"The market is turning around as optimism is growing that
efforts by global governments including South Korea's to
stimulate the economy will pay off," said Lee Jae-mahn, a market
analyst at Tong Yang Securities.
The Nikkei, however, fell 1 percent after earlier
hitting a fresh 5-1/2-year high. Still, it is up nearly 44
percent so far this year.
"The pace of the rise has been too fast. It's a healthy
correction," said Norihiro Fujito, strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ
Morgan Stanley Securities of the Nikkei.
Japan's economy grew 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the
quickest pace in a year, beating expectations for a growth rate
of 0.7 percent.
"This is undoubtedly very strong growth, and very positive
for Japan's economy," said Yoshiki Shinke, senior economist,
Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.
"It's no longer just about brightening sentiment and rises
in equities prices. There's now proof that Abenomics is working
and that the economy is on a solid footing."
The report stood in stark contrast to the euro zone, which
showed the region contracting for a sixth straight quarter as
France slid into recession and Germany registered mere 0.1
The euro zone data had raised expectations for more monetary
easing by the European Central Bank, prompting investors to sell
The euro slipped 0.1 percent to $1.2877, having hit a
six-week low of $1.2843 on Wednesday. Against the yen, it was at
131.62, off a three-year peak of 132.78 set earlier
in the week.
"The euro zone has registered six straight quarters of
contraction and any recovery is likely to be limited in the
months ahead," said Mitul Kotecha, global head of foreign
exchange at Credit Agricole in Hong Kong.
"Pressure on the ECB to provide more policy accommodation
will only be reinforced by today's release of the April CPI data
leaving the euro under further pressure. Near term technical
support for EUR/USD is seen around 1.2772."
Gold also struggled after a 2 percent slide in the previous
session. Spot gold was around $1,395 an ounce, having
briefly touched a fresh one-month low near $1,387.
Brent crude fell 0.4 percent to $103.22 a barrel,
giving back some of Wednesday's 1.0-percent gain.