GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar steady before Fed, China shares gain on growth pledge

Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:25am EDT

* Dollar steady in Asian trade, market awaits Fed

* Asian shares ease, Chinese stocks up

* Fed to release post-meeting statement at 1800 GMT

* Gold heads for best monthly rise since Jan. 2012

By Dominic Lau

TOKYO, July 31 (Reuters) - Chinese shares rose after Beijing pledged to keep economic growth stable in the second half of the year, while the dollar held onto slight gains as market momentum stalled ahead of the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting on Wednesday.

European shares were expected to open steady, with London's FTSE 100 seen up as much as 0.1 percent and Frankfurt's DAX indicated flat, while U.S. S&P 500 index futures edged up 0.1 percent.

The dollar was steady against a basket of major currencies after a 0.2 percent rise on Tuesday. The dollar index is down 1.5 percent in July and set to post a second straight monthly loss for the first time since the turn of the year.

The dollar index hit a five-week trough earlier this week as investors bet the Fed would reassure markets that interest rates would remain low for a long time even if it started scaling back stimulus this year.

The Fed will release its post-meeting statement at 1800 GMT, but there will be no news conference by Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"Traders globally seem to be in a wait-and-see mode before the outcome of the Fed's meeting on the timing of quantitative easing tapering," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management in Tokyo.

The Fed is expected to link the start of any tapering to data signals, and markets get two major reports this week to their cues.

U.S. second quarter GDP data on Wednesday is expected to show growth slowed to an annualised pace of 1.0 percent in the second quarter from 1.8 percent in the first, while payrolls data on Friday is forecast to show a fall in the jobless rate.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England meet on Thursday, and are set to hold policy steady.

The yen added 0.1 percent to 97.910 yen to the dollar, while the euro was steady at $1.32560 after hitting a six-week high of $1.33025 on Tuesday.

CHINESE SHARES UP

China's CSI300 index rose 0.5 percent after authorities pledged to keep growth stable in the second half of 2012 while pressing ahead with reforms and restructuring. The index is still down nearly 13 percent this year.

"The statement made by the Politburo is quite favourable for the property sector," said Cao Xuefeng, a Chengdu-based head of research at Huaxi Securities.

Asian shares as measured by the MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan index slipped 0.4 percent. The index is up 2.1 percent so far this month, on track to end a two-month losing run, though it is still down 5 percent so far this year.

Japan's Nikkei share average dropped 1.5 percent in light trading, giving up some of the previous session's 1.5 percent gain. Still, the benchmark is up 31.5 percent in 2013, underpinned by the government's aggressive stimulus policies aimed at reviving the world's third-largest economy.

Of the 54 Nikkei companies that have reported quarterly earnings so far, two-thirds either beat or met market expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, versus 54 percent in the previous quarter.

But in a sign that companies are curbing production due to slowing growth in exports, Japanese manufacturing activity in July grew at the slowest pace in four months.

COPPER REBOUNDS

In commodity markets, copper prices climbed 1 percent to just above $6,800 a tonne, rebounding from near three-week lows after dropping 2.1 percent on Tuesday on concerns about demand in top consumer China.

A Reuters poll found Chinese manufacturing activity may have contracted in July for the first time in 10 months, signalling a protracted slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. The PMI will be released on Thursday.

Gold gained 0.5 percent. It is up 8.2 percent so far this month, on track to snap a three-month losing run and mark its biggest monthly rise since January 2012, but it is down 20 percent since the beginning of 2013.

Brent crude prices eased 0.2 percent to around $106.70 a barrel, extending a 0.6 percent decline on Tuesday. They are up 4.5 percent this month, heading for their best monthly gain since August last year.

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