GLOBAL MARKETS-Growth worries weigh on Asian shares, commodities; gold tumbles
* MSCI Asia ex-Japan down 0.7 pct, Nikkei off 0.9 pct
* Data shows record weekly foreign buying of Japan stocks
* Gold tumbles as SPDR sees outflows
* European shares likely to rebound slightly
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, April 18 (Reuters) - Concerns over global growth and weak demand pulled down Asian shares and commodities on Thursday, while gold slid as money continued to flow out of gold-backed exchange-traded funds.
European stock markets were seen rebounding after hitting a 2013 low overnight, with financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open up as much as 0.5 percent.
U.S. stock futures were little changed, suggesting a calm Wall Street open after both the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite Index closed down more than 1 percent overnight.
Recent data from China and the United States fell short of market expectations and triggered this week's selling across markets. Some investors saw this as a timely liquidation of one-sided positions built over the past several months, when optimism over the U.S. economic outlook boosted U.S. stocks to record peaks and lifted European shares to multi-year highs.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 percent, with its materials sector taking the hardest hit with a 2.4 percent slump as precious and base metals prices slid.
Japan's Nikkei average declined 0.9 percent.
Worries that slowing global growth will dent demand for raw materials hurt sentiment in resources-reliant Australian shares , whose 1.2 percent fall was the biggest among regional bourses.
Worries that slowing global growth will dent demand for raw materials battered shares in resources-reliant Australia, with the index off 1.5 percent, the biggest fall among regional bourses.
"Markets are gradually realizing that the long-term commodity boom, or super-cycle as some people call it, that started around the turn of the century is now over," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors, of Australian stocks.
South Korean shares fell 0.9 percent, weighed down by weakness in U.S. stocks on disappointing corporate earnings reports.
Copper, seen as a gauge for manufacturing and China-related growth, extended its losses, with London copper sliding as much as 4 percent to $6,800 a tonne.
Oil prices tumbled for a seventh straight session, with Brent crude futures staying below $98 a barrel, a level breachedfor the first time since July on Wednesday on concern about global oil demand.
U.S. crude fell 0.2 percent to $86.55 after dipping below $86 earlier to a fresh four-month low.
"We're just seeing an ongoing adjustment to the weaker data seen earlier in the week ... what we're seeing is a price adjustment to an emerging outlook that supply is increasing," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
GOLD SELLING MOMENTUM
Spot gold shed as much as 2.7 percent to a low of $1,339.86 an ounce on Thursday and last traded down 0.7 percent at $1,367.30. Bullion touched its lowest in more than two years of $1,321.35 on Tuesday.
U.S. gold futures slid as much as 3.4 percent to a low of $1,335.60 an ounce on Thursday as holdings on SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, slipped to their lowest level since April 2010.
"Gold's downtrend largely reflects changing preconditions that supported buying of bullion, and selling momentum is picking up as various bearish factors resonate with one another," said Koichiro Kamei, managing director at financial research firm Market Strategy Institute.
Kamei cited the Federal Reserve's Beige Book survey of economic activity, which allowed for the possibility the U.S. central bank would scale back its bond-buying stimulus later in the year. The survey on Wednesday showed the U.S. economy posted moderate growth between late February and early April.
"The gold-supportive macro environment is changing. Also, despite ample central bank fund injections, few signs are emerging of heightening inflationary pressures globally," Kamei said. "On top of that, investors may have run out of patience with reports of the central bank of Cyprus selling gold and ETF outflows pushing prices lower."
JAPAN STILL FAVOURED
Data from Tokyo showed a small rise in Japanese exports, improving business confidence and surging investment flows, demonstrating early successes for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's radical pro-growth strategy. But firms have yet to see signs of a sustained boost to economic activity.
But Tokyo's weekly capital flows data underscored a persistent gap between how domestic and foreign investors perceive Japan's growth outlook.
Buying of Japanese equities last week by foreign investors hit its highest since the finance ministry began collecting the numbers in 2005. The data also confirmed Japanese investors have yet to actively seek returns from overseas assets despite falling domestic yields, as they sold foreign bonds last week.
The dollar steadied around 98.09 yen after touching a low of 95.67 yen on Tuesday, and the euro also held steady around 127.97 yen, above Tuesday's low of 125 yen.
Traders said the dollar may stagnate just below the symbolic 100 yen mark, but it will gain over the longer term due to a firmer economy and the much higher probability that the U.S. will end its super-easy monetary policy well before Japan does.
"Real money and leveraged (players) are still looking for a higher dollar/yen," said Adam Gilmour, head of FX and derivatives sales for Asia Pacific at Citi in Singapore.
Traders will watch this weekend's Group of 20 meeting in Washington for any critical remarks over the yen's continued weak trend.
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