GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares gain after ECB assurances, US jobs in focus

Fri Oct 5, 2012 1:22am EDT

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan hits five-month highs

* Euro holds onto gains after ECB reassures on bond buying plan

* US payrolls data due 1230 GMT

* BOJ announces no new easing steps, as expected

* European shares likely advance

By Chikako Mogi

TOKYO, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Asian shares rose and the euro clung on to most of its overnight gains on Friday as investors awaited a key U.S. jobs report, sustaining a positive mood after the European Central Bank said it stands ready to buy bonds of troubled euro zone countries.

U.S. stock futures were up 0.1 percent, suggesting a modest uptick at the start on Wall Street, while financial spreadbetters expected London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open as much as 0.5 percent higher.

Growing appetite for riskier assets lifted the Australian dollar up 0.3 percent to $1.0267, off a one-month low of $1.0182 touched on Thursday.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent, after hitting a five-month high earlier, and was set for a weekly gain of 0.8 percent, which would take its year-to-date rise to nearly 13 percent.

Australian shares outperformed with a 0.9 percent gain to 14-month highs, led by mining stocks advancing on the back of a fourth day of gains on Wall Street.

Tokyo's Nikkei stock average rose 0.2 percent.

The Bank of Japan took no new monetary easing measures as expected despite mounting political pressures, holding its fire for now and waiting to assess the impact of stimulus it just announced last month. The yen rose to an intraday high of 78.27 after the announcement from around 78.42 yen.

Investors are closely watching monthly U.S. payrolls data due at 1230 GMT after recent indicators suggested the economy was picking up traction again, although it appears still stuck in a slow recovery. Jobs likely increased by 113,000 last month but the jobless rate likely ticked up to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent in August.

"All eyes are on the jobs data, as it affects markets from energy to metals through its impact on stock prices and currencies," said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at Tokyo-based research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory.

"Recent sluggish economic data shows demand is unlikely to pick up explosively even on a strong jobs report, so broad price reactions in commodities will likely be triggered by the dollar's move," he said.

Markets probably already priced in the weak demand outlook when they hit their lows in September, and were now seeking how much upside central bank stimulus would provide, he said.

Speculative fund flows inspired by the recent stimulus could push gold up as high as $1,800 an ounce, U.S. crude up to around $100 and Brent crude futures up to $118 a barrel, he said.

"In the fourth quarter the big focus is just whether the central bank action flows through to real demand," said Ivan Szpakowski, a Credit Suisse analyst in Singapore.

The latest Federal Reserve easing measures were aimed at improving the U.S. labour market, which is key to ensuring that the world's largest economy remains on solid footing amid mounting concerns about slowdowns in Europe and China.

A strong employment report might send stocks towards and even beyond recent peaks and create a headwind for bonds, said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York, in a note. But he added that with the Fed far from changing its accommodative policy, a solid reading is likely to create a buying opportunity for fixed income.

DELAYS IN SPAIN

The euro steadied at $1.3014, not far from a two-week high of $1.3032 hit on Thursday and inching towards a 4-1/2 month high of $1.31729 seen in mid-September.

Markets gained after ECB President Mario Draghi said on Thursday that the bank has a "fully effective backstop mechanism in place" to buy the bonds of euro zone states when they request aid, and that conditions linked to it need not be punitive.

Spain remains a risk factor for markets as it delays an expected request for a bailout.

"We think they will request assistance before the EU summit on October 18-19 and, hence, believe investors will have no reason to avoid buying risky assets then. But the risks of delays are not small, despite Draghi's latest statements," Barclays Capital said in research note.

Since the ECB unveiled the bond-buying scheme in September, Spanish borrowing costs have stabilised below critical levels seen as unsustainable, and auctions such as those on Thursday have met generally good demand.

European sources said the euro zone is considering aiding Spain by providing insurance for investors who buy government bonds to maintain Spanish access to capital markets and minimise the cost to European taxpayers.

After jumping 4 percent on Thursday on supply fears, U.S. crude oil futures fell 0.4 percent at $91.36 a barrel and Brent dropped 0.6 percent to $111.95.

Spot gold extended gainst to a fresh 11-month high of $1,795.69 an ounce.

Asian credit markets firmed along with stock markets, tightening the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index by 4 basis points.

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