GLOBAL MARKETS -Asian equities scale 1-year peak on economic optimism

Fri May 23, 2014 1:54am EDT

* Risk appetite intact after upbeat U.S., China data

* Spreadbetters see mixed open for Europe

* Coup in Thailand a mild distraction for region

* Weekend elections in Ukraine, EU eyed

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO, May 23 (Reuters) - Asian shares edged up to one-year highs on Friday as investors welcomed signs of improving momentum in the world's biggest economies, with Tokyo's Nikkei poised to score its first weekly gain in nearly a month thanks to a weaker yen.

Financial spreadbetters expected a mixed open for Europe, however, due to caution ahead of weekend elections in the Ukraine and European Union. Britain's FTSE was seen opening flat, Germany's DAX up 0.1 percent and France's CAC 0.1 percent lower.

"Despite modest gains in overnight markets, European traders are showing some hesitation ahead of the Ukrainian and European election results," said Jonathan Sudaria, a dealer at London Capital Group.

Asian equities rode the momentum set in motion the previous session by surveys showing China's factory sector had its best performance in five months in May and U.S. factory output growth hitting its fastest pace since February 2011.

Separate data also showed U.S. home resales rose in April and the supply of properties on the market hit its highest level in nearly two years, promising signs for the housing market.

The confluence of positive data from the world's biggest economies soothed investor nerves though uncertainty over China's outlook is likely to keep markets on edge this year.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent at 487.70 after hitting a one-year high of 488.42. Overall activity in regional markets was capped ahead of an extended weekend in the United States where markets will be closed for Memorial day on Monday.

Markets were only mildly distracted by news that Thailand's military had seized power in a bloodless coup late on Thursday, pitching the nation into a further period of uncertainty as the long drawn out political crisis shows no signs of resolution.

"The coup in Thailand was not entirely unexpectedly - risk had already been seen as higher following the imposition of martial law," Credit Agricole said in a note to clients.

Thailand's army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who declared martial law two days earlier, said the military had to restore order and push through reforms after six months of turmoil

After the coup, the Thai baht weakened to a low of 32.70 per dollar in offshore trading on Thursday but has since recovered slightly to a narrower 32.46-32.59 range on Friday.

Meanwhile, presidential elections in Ukraine on Sunday is another potential development that could undermine investor risk appetite. The United States and European Union hope the vote will strengthen the embattled central government.

"If elections are not held in all parts of Ukraine, Russia could further question the legitimacy of the process, and this would increase geopolitical risk," said Masafumi Yamamoto, market strategist at Praevidentia Strategy in Tokyo.

The Nikkei climbed 1 percent as the yen remained on the back foot against the dollar. The Japanese index has gained about 2.7 percent so far this week and poised for its first weekly gain in three.

The dollar traded little changed at 101.77 yen, and has gained about 0.2 percent on the week. Though the rise is modest, it is still poised to snap a four-week losing run versus the yen, helped as U.S debt yields bounced from multi-month lows this week.

U.S. Treasury yields edged higher on Thursday after upbeat U.S. existing home sales and factory activity lifted sentiment.

The euro eased slightly on the day to $1.3647. It was within sight of a three-month low of $1.3634 set on Wednesday, hurt by rising expectations the European Central Bank will ease policy as early as next month.

Also keeping euro bulls at bay is some worry that the European Union elections over the weekend could destabilise some euro zone governments at home.

Nickel at the London Metal Exchange (LME) looked set to pocket a 3.5 percent weekly gain, building on the year's stellar advance after a shutdown of Indonesian supply, while copper targeted a flat weekly close following its push to two-month peaks. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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