GLOBAL MARKETS-Upbeat China trade report, Yellen buoy risk assets

Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:28am EST

* European shares seen opening higher on risk rally

* China Jan exports and imports well above forecasts

* Yellen positive on economy, emphasises continuity of policy

* US House passes debt limit, diminishes danger of default

By Lisa Twaronite and Wayne Cole

TOKYO/SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Asian shares rallied for a fourth straight session on Wednesday, as upbeat trade data from China and an optimistic economic outlook from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen whetted investors' appetite for risk.

The cheer was expected to spread to Europe, where financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open up by 6-9 points, or 0.1 percent; Germany's DAX to rise 19-25 points, or 0.3 percent; and France's CAC to add 7-8 points, or 0.2 percent.

Investors took heart from the strong performance on Wall Street and lifted MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan about 1.1 percent.

A speech by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will be in the spotlight later on Wednesday, while the Bank of England will release a report on inflation that should include an overhaul of forward guidance. {ID:nL3N0LG2GO]

Chinese exports handily beat expectations in January, rising 10.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 10 percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $31.9 billion for the month.

"It's fair to say that this should not make people more nervous about global demand and China's economy, but I also think we have to keep on scrutinising the data and wondering how much this really means," said Louis Kujis, an economist at RBS.

Australia's main index surged 1.1 percent to close at a three-week high, while Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.6 percent.

The buoyant mood offset the impact of a much weaker-than-expected report on Japanese machinery orders, which is a leading indicator of capital expenditure.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended Tuesday up 1.22 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 1.11 percent to post its best four-day performance in 13 months.

Stocks in Canada, Europe and emerging markets also rallied as Yellen was careful to rock no boats in her first testimony to Congress. {ID:nL2N0LG0S4]

"Continuity in policy is the main message from Fed Chair Yellen's testimony," said John Peters, a senior economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney. "Equities did well in reaction to the Fed sticking with its relatively upbeat outlook on the economy."

"Crucially, the Fed hasn't downgraded its view on the U.S. recovery in light of recent data releases or volatility in markets," he added. "Further QE tapering is on the cards at upcoming FOMC meetings and U.S. yields should continue to rise."

The yields on 10-year Treasury notes pushed to two-week highs, rising to 2.727 percent from Tuesday's U.S. close of 2.717 percent.

Sentiment got a further lift from news that the U.S. House of Representatives had passed legislation increasing Washington's borrowing authority, removing the danger of default.

The calmer mood was reflected in the VIX index of volatility, which dived 4.9 percent to 14.51, pulling sharply away from its recent peak at 21.48.

The Australian dollar benefited from the better-than-expected Chinese trade report, adding 0.2 percent to $0.9056 and also edging up against the yen to 92.79.

China is Australia's biggest export market.

The U.S. dollar slipped slightly on the day against its Japanese counterpart to 102.50, while the euro inched up to $1.3644.

In commodity markets, spot gold fell 0.3 percent to $1,286.90 an ounce, snapping a three-day winning streak and giving back some of its sharp overnight gains as stocks rallied. But it was still not far from a three-month high of $1,293.44 hit on Tuesday.

Brent crude rose about 0.1 percent to $108.74 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained 0.6 percent to $100.51, also bolstered by data from the American Petroleum Institute showing crude stocks fell by 2.5 million barrels at a key U.S. delivery hub, and by expectations of increased U.S. demand due to cold weather.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.7 percent to $7,121 a tonne, reversing losses from the previous session and moving away from a two-month low of $7,016 touched on Feb. 4.

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

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