* Asian share markets mixed, Nikkei still shut
* China manufacturing index dips, missing forecasts
* Yen falls anew, dollar near highest in over five years
* Gold bounces, talk of Chinese demand for commodities
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Asian share markets endured mixed
fortunes on Thursday in the wake of disappointing data on
Chinese manufacturing, while investors showed renewed appetite
for commodities as the new year got underway.
Gold grabbed the limelight with a 1.5 percent jump to
$1,223.46 an ounce, recouping just a little of the losses
that made last year its worst in three decades.
The buying spilled over into silver and copper, with dealers
talking of Chinese demand for commodities in general.
The other action was in the yen, which resumed its long
decline as investors used it to fund purchases of
higher-yielding assets abroad.
The drop in the yen has been viewed as positive for Japanese
exports and corporate earnings, and a major reason its share
markets outperformed all others last year.
Japan's Nikkei was closed on Thursday but ended 2013
with an annual gain of 57 percent. Many analysts look for a
further advance this year as the Bank of Japan remains committed
to its massive stimulus campaign.
Nomura's global strategy team is forecasting that Japanese
equities will provide the greatest return of all global stocks
in 2014, thanks in large part to rising corporate earnings.
They see the Nikkei at 18,000 points by the end of this
year, up from the current 16,291, and said even 25,000 was
possible by 2018 should Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's aggressive
economic program prove successful in defeating deflation.
Asian markets outside of Japan had a much more mixed
performance in 2013, partly because investors rediscovered the
attractions of assets in Europe and the United States.
Having ended last year essentially flat, MSCI's broadest
index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell
0.5 percent on Thursday.
The relentless drop in the yen has also been eroding the
competitiveness of Japan's Asian neighbours, one reason Korean
shares skidded 1.5 percent on Thursday.
Not helping was a drop in China's official Purchasing
Managers' Index (PMI) to 51.0 in December, from 51.4 the
previous month and below forecasts for 51.2.
Analysts at Barclays noted the pullback in activity in the
survey was broad-based across industry sectors and sizes.
"We think elevated interest rates across the money, bond and
credit markets have led to higher funding costs, hurt corporate
sentiment and thus weigh on economic growth," they wrote in a
Other data showed Singapore's economy contracted more than
expected in the fourth quarter, but better news came from South
Korea, where manufacturing activity picked up to its strongest
level in seven months.
A slew of manufacturing indices for Europe and the United
States are due out across Thursday which will offer a better
idea of how global industry was faring into the end of the year.
YEN HEADING LOWER
For the major currencies the main themes continued to be
weakness in the yen and resilience in the euro.
The common currency was up at 144.90 yen, having
clocked up gains of 26 percent over 2013 to reach a five-year
peak of 145.67. The dollar was likewise firm at 105.27 yen
having climbed 21 percent last year.
The euro was a shade softer on the dollar at $1.3763,
but still not far from its recent two-year peak of $1.3892.
Dealers suspect the single currency has been supported by
the repatriation of funds by European banks and a large and
expanding current account surplus in the euro zone.
But there remains a general assumption that rising U.S.
Treasury yields will eventually lift the dollar up on the euro.
Yields on U.S. 10-year paper are up at two-and-a-half year
highs of 3.03 percent. Even shorter-dated rates have been rising
as improving U.S. economic data justifies the Federal Reserve's
decision to start tapering its asset-buying stimulus.
Outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is giving a speech on
Friday and may offer more guidance on the outlook for tapering.
In oil markets, U.S. crude futures were trading 22
cents higher on Thursday at $98.64 a barrel, while Brent added
20 cents to $111.00.