GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares quietly encouraged by Wall St record

Tue Apr 1, 2014 7:30pm EDT

* Asian shares supported as S&P 500 touches all-time peak

* US data point to Spring pick up, ahead of jobs report

* Pressure builds for ECB easing, analysts doubt move this week

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, April 2 (Reuters) - Asian share markets were looking to extend their recent rally on Wednesday as investors chose to accentuate the positive in a mixed bag of global economic data, pressuring safe havens such as the yen and government bonds.

Even sluggishness in China is now considered favourably since it adds to the case for stimulus, and there are signs Beijing is hastening infrastructure spending in response.

In early action, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan crept up to a fresh four-month high, while Australia's market added 0.2 percent.

Nikkei futures pointed to an opening rise of perhaps 0.5 percent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended Tuesday up 0.70 percent and just off a record intraday high. The Dow rose 0.46 percent, while the Nasdaq bounced 1.64 percent.

The FTSEurofirst 300 added 0.56 percent, helped by merger activity and improving French factory data. MSCI's world stocks gauge was up 0.6 percent.

The U.S. economic news was generally supportive of risk appetite. The manufacturing ISM climbed to 53.7 in March, from 53.2, with production showing a marked expansion from weather-induced weakness in February.

Likewise, new vehicles sales rose to a surprisingly brisk 16.4 million annualised in March, ending three months of softness and supporting the view that demand is recovering now that the worst of the winter weather has passed.

The arrival of Spring is also why the market is wagering the U.S. payrolls report on Friday will show employment picked up to 200,000 in March.

The brighter tone in the data pressured the long-end of the U.S. Treasury curve, where yields on 10- and 30-year paper rose around 4 bass points.

Shorter-dated debt fared better in the wake of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comment that extraordinary stimulus would be needed for some time to come.

WILL THEY, WON'T THEY?

Investors have also been speculating that the European Central Bank would soon take further steps to loosen policy, though officials are blowing hot and cold on the issue.

On Tuesday, ECB vice-president Vitor Constancio told a news conference that low inflation was a concern and could drag on economic growth. Euro zone inflation slowed to an annual 0.5 percent in March, its lowest since November 2009.

But Constancio then went on to deny any risk of deflation, saying inflation was set to pick up. That was taken as diminishing the chance of an easing at the ECB's policy meeting on Thursday and gave the euro a modest lift.

A Reuters poll of 22 euro money market traders found 18 expected no change in the 0.25 percent main refinancing rate.

The single currency was steady at $1.3795 on Wednesday, having edged up for a third straight session on Tuesday. It also gained on a broadly softer yen to reach 142.93 , while the dollar was up at 103.62 yen and near a three-week top.

Among commodities, Brent crude was quoted at $105.62 a barrel having shed over 2 percent overnight on the possibility of a jump in supplies from Libya after rebels blocking eastern oil ports hinted at a deal with Tripoli.

U.S. crude was off 9 cents at $99.63 a barrel in early trade, after also losing around 2 percent to expectations for a build in domestic inventories.

Spot gold was sulking at $1,280.36 an ounce, having touched a seven-week low of $1,277.29 on Tuesday. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)