GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares take seasonal cheer from Wall St

Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:18pm EST

* Asian markets supported as Wall St hits fresh records

* Nikkei could clear its 2013 peak on return from holiday

* Currencies hold to ranges, dollar underpinned by rising yields

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Asian markets should take cheer on Tuesday after Wall Street rang up more records and upbeat U.S. spending data burnished the outlook for the global economy, even as benign inflation left gold on course for its worst year in over two decades.

Tokyo's Nikkei could well clear its peak for the year when it opens after a holiday on Monday. The Australian market made the early running with a gain of 0.5 percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched higher.

U.S. stocks reached all-time highs after Apple Inc's distribution deal with China Mobile lifted the technology sector. Apple itself added 3.83 percent for the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.45 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.53 percent and the Nasdaq 1.08 percent.

Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up 0.7 percent while Germany's DAX finished at a record.

Sentiment was supported by upbeat data on U.S. consumption, which helped offset concerns about rising money market rates in China.

Combined with upward revisions, the U.S. figures showed real spending was running significantly stronger this quarter than first thought.

As a result analysts were upgrading forecasts for economic growth for the quarter, which in turn follows upward revisions to the third quarter.

The same report did show a key measure of core inflation preferred by the Fed stayed at a cycle low of 1.1 percent in the year to October, still far below the central bank's target of 2 percent.

But the market chose to focus on the strength in consumption and priced in more risk of an earlier hike in interest rates from the Fed.

Fed fund futures are now fully priced for a move to 0.5 percent in September of 2015. This time last week, the move was pencilled in for November.

Government borrowing costs have also been rising even for shorter-dated debt. Yields on two-year Treasury notes were up at 39 basis points, compared to a trough of 26 basis points last month.

Oddly this drift higher in U.S. yields has failed to lift the dollar much, at least against the euro. Many analysts still assume the relative outperformance of the U.S. economy will benefit the dollar over time, but the process is proving to be a glacial one.

On Tuesday, the euro was holding firm at $1.3694, up from last week's low of $1.3623. For the year to date, the euro is holding gains of almost 4 percent on the dollar.

Both currencies have fared much better on the yen, easily the weakest of the major currencies this year as the Bank of Japan remains committed to its massive stimulus campaign.

The dollar was steady at 104.15 yen after hitting a five-year high at 104.63 last week, while the euro edged up to 142.65 yen.

Among Asian currencies, the Thai baht touched a near four-year low of 32.77 per U.S. dollar. Thailand's political turmoil grew as anti-government protesters gathered on Sunday to demand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resign.

In commodity markets, gold was heading for its biggest annual loss in three decades at $1,198.80 an ounce. It has shed nearly 30 percent so far this year and is threatening the April 2010 bottom under $1,050.

In oil, U.S. crude fell 37 cents to $98.54 a barrel, off a two-month high of $99.40. Benchmark Brent crude was 20 cents lower at $111.57 per barrel.