Asian shares inch up as data show U.S. growth intact

TOKYO Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:23pm EST

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares ticked higher on Thursday after a set of robust U.S. data and upbeat earnings from Bank of America helped squash concerns of a slowdown in the world's largest economy following disappointing jobs growth in December.

U.S. producer prices posted their biggest gain in six months in December as the cost of gasoline rebounded strongly, but inflation pressure remained benign.

Separately, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said a gauge of manufacturing in New York state jumped to its highest level in 20 months in January as new orders soared.

"A strong New York Fed Empire Survey Wednesday has added to market confidence that last week's soft U.S. jobs report did not augur a broader slowing in activity, particularly since the employment component also increased notably," analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.1 percent in early trade, though holding below its 200-day moving average.

In Tokyo, Nikkei futures put on 0.3 percent, pointing to a slightly firmer open for the Nikkei benchmark .N225, which logged its best one-day rise in four months on Wednesday after suffering its worst session in five months the day before.

Overnight, U.S. stocks gained, with the Standard & Poor's 500 .SPX climbing to an all-time closing high on the back of the economic data and strong quarterly earnings from Bank of America (BAC.N).

The U.S.'s second-largest bank said quarterly profit surged nearly $3 billion as revenue increased and mortgage losses plunged in the clearest sign yet the bank was shaking off the impact of the financial crisis.

"The news from Bank of America's fourth-quarter numbers suggest the U.S. earnings season is in for a solid beat," Evan Lucas, market strategist at financial spreadbetter IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note.

Other U.S. banks have also done well so far in the latest quarterly earnings season, with JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) both reporting better-than-expected results this week.

GLOBAL GROWTH

Adding to the positive tone, the World Bank raised its forecast for global growth for the first time in three years as advanced economies started to pick up their pace, led by the United States.

It predicted global gross domestic product will expand 3.2 percent this year from 2.4 percent in 2013.

Apart from the economic data, the dollar also got a boost from comments by two of the Federal Reserve's most hawkish policymakers who take up voting power this year. They said the central bank should bring its bond-buying campaign to a swift close.

The euro was steady at $1.3604, having fallen 0.5 percent in the previous session. Against the yen, the greenback was at 104.57 after gaining 0.3 percent overnight.

"We remain bullish on the USD and see scope for further downside in EUR/USD and GBP/USD in the near-term," BNP Paribas analysts said.

The dollar .DXY was up 0.4 percent at 81.008 against a basket of major currencies, further pulling away from a two-week low of 80.444 set on Tuesday.

Among commodities, gold was up a tad at $1,242.40 an ounce, stabilizing after having hit a near one-week low of $1,234.10 on Wednesday as the dollar rallied.

U.S. crude futures added 0.2 percent to $94.33 a barrel, near a two-week high of $94.64 set in the prior day after U.S. government data showed a larger-than-expected drop in inventories.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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