GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares hit 6-1/2 year high, dollar steady before Fed

Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:14am EDT

* Spreadbetters predict softer starts in Europe

* MSCI Asia erases losses, climbs to 6-1/2 year high

* Dollar trading around 8-month highs vs. euro

* Fed's statement could hint at improving labour market

* U.S. GDP report expected to show economy rebounded

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, July 30 (Reuters) - Asian shares touched a six-and-half-year peak on Wednesday and the dollar was steady, with investors waiting for second quarter U.S. growth data as well as a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that some believe might yield a more hawkish policy outlook.

The Fed will not be updating its economic forecasts and Chair Janet Yellen will not hold a news conference following the two-day policy meeting, leaving investors' focus squarely on a statement scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. (18:00 GMT).

Ahead of that, financial spreadbetters predicted softer starts in Europe, with Britain's FTSE 100 seen opening 2 points lower, or down 0.03 percent; Germany's DAX to open 18 points lower, or down 0.2 percent; and France's CAC 40 to open 9 points lower, or down 0.2 percent.

"Our index opening calls are shaping up for a modestly lower open, and if sanctions against Russia have caused investor outflows from Europe then the new sanctions from the EU could see this headwind continue," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, said in a note.

Tuesday brought further EU and U.S. sanctions against Russia over Moscow's support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shrugged off early losses in the wake of a decline on Wall Street to rise 0.5 percent to its highest level since January 2008, while Australian shares climbed to their highest level since June of that year.

"In the end it's really part of a global rally, it's been underpinned by the U.S., where economic growth is seen to be improving albeit slowly, and earnings growth in Australia looks reasonable at this stage," said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual in Sydney.

Japan's Nikkei stock average ended up 0.2 percent, as upbeat earnings offset weaker-than-expected industrial production data which cast doubts over the strength of an expected third-quarter economic recovery.

Output fell 3.3 percent in June, the fastest rate since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, as companies put on the brakes due to a pile-up in inventories. But manufacturers expect output to rise in the coming months.

"Macro funds including overseas pension funds are shifting to Japanese shares from U.S. shares as valuations of Japanese shares are cheaper," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of global equities at BNP Paribas.

On Wall Street overnight, a weak outlook from courier company United Parcel Service triggered a broad selloff, pushing the S&P 500 below its 14-day moving average for a second straight day.

Still, almost 70 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported already have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, which is well above the long-term average of 63 percent. More than half of companies have reported results, and over 63 percent of them have topped revenue forecasts, above the long-term average of 61 percent.

FED ON DECK

Later on Wednesday, the Fed is expected to cut its monthly bond-buying program by another $10 billion.

Also later in the session, the Commerce Department is expected to report that the economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual pace in the second quarter, after it shrank 2.9 percent in the previous quarter.

On Friday, the Labor Department's key nonfarm payrolls are expected to rise by 231,000 in July after an increase of 288,000 in June. The jobless rate is expected to hold steady at 6.1 percent.

With U.S. unemployment dropping over the last few months and inflation firming, some believe the U.S. central bank could adjust its wording to suggest its willingness to hike interest rates sooner rather than later as the bank approaches its "full employment" mandate.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note stood at 2.467 percent in late Asian trade, not far from its U.S. close of 2.462 percent on Tuesday, when it got support from German, Italian and Spanish government debt yields all hitting record lows.

Ten-year German government bond yields, the benchmark for euro zone borrowing costs, sank as low as 1.12 percent on Tuesday.

That helped the dollar rise to eight-month highs against the euro, which extended the drop as low as $1.3403 in Asian trade and was last steady at $1.3407.

Against the yen, the dollar was steady on the day at 102.12 after it broke above the 102 level on Tuesday for the first time since early July.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. unit against a basket of six major rivals, was last at 80.225, after touching a six-month high of 81.245 on Tuesday as the euro cratered.

U.S. crude edged up around 0.1 percent on the day to $101.07 a barrel after touching an intraday low of $100.37 on Tuesday, its lowest since mid-July.

Spot gold was steady at $1,299 an ounce after slipping 0.5 percent and breaking below the key $1,300 level in the previous session. (Additional reporting by Thuy Ong in Sydney and Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Kim Coghill and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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