* MSCI Asia ex-Japan down 0.5, Nikkei, down 0.3 pct
* Euro STOXX index futures down 0.1 pct, FTSE seen 0.2 pct
* Asian stocks ease after S&P 500 falls 0.6 pct
* Brent crude rises above $118 a barrel
* Euro edges up to $1.3155
By Alex Richardson
SINGAPORE, April 20 Asian shares fell and
commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian dollar
slipped on Friday after disappointing U.S. economic data stirred
doubts about the strength of the recovery.
Renewed worries on the euro zone debt crisis also kept
riskier assets under pressure and supported safe-haven U.S.
Treasuries, as a better-than-feared Spanish bond auction failed
to allay concerns that Spain may follow Greece, Ireland and
Portugal in needing an international bailout.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan
fell 0.5 percent and Japan's Nikkei share
average lost 0.3 percent.
Euro STOXX 50 index futures slipped 0.1 percent,
while financial bookmakers in London called the FTSE 100 index
to open 0.2 percent lower.
After racing ahead in the first quarter amid improving data
from the United States and liquidity injections from major
central banks, global equity markets have stumbled in recent
weeks, although the MSCI Asia ex-Japan, Nikkei and S&P 500
all remain up 10 percent or more for the year-to-date.
"Put into the context of the first-quarter rally this
pullback isn't unreasonable, particularly since the case for
China is no longer strong growth," said Norman Chan, head of
investments at wealth manager Calibre Asset Management.
U.S. index futures were flat in Asian trading, but
Wall Street may get some direction later when conglomerate
General Electric Co. reports quarterly earnings.
"GE, who source earnings from so many parts of the economy,
has the premise to move an equity market around that really
seems to be struggling for direction at present," said Chris
Weston, a dealer at IG Markets in Melbourne.
U.S. stocks fell 0.6 percent on Thursday, as worries
about the health of the wider economy overshadowed a strong
start to the corporate earnings season from the likes of Bank of
America, Morgan Stanley and Microsoft.
The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefit for
the first time fell less than expected last week, suggesting a
slowdown in job creation. Other data showed factory activity in
the Mid-Atlantic region slowed sharply this month and U.S. home
resales fell for a second month in March.
Treasuries gained after the data and held firm on Friday,
with the yield on 10-year notes at 1.96 percent,
matching its level in late U.S. trade.
Currencies of commodity producers, which tend to be
sensitive to economic growth expectations, retreated.
The Australian dollar eased about 0.2 percent to $1.0315
, marking its second day of declines, although it recouped
some of the lost ground later in the session.
Brent crude rose 25 cents to $118.25 a barrel, but
was on course for its steepest weekly loss in more than three
"The Spain sovereign debt auction went rather well, but the
European economy is still very unstable which is affecting Brent
prices," said Yusuke Seta, a Tokyo-based broker at Newedge.
Copper was almost unchanged around $8,075 a tonne
and gold edged a touch higher to around $1,645 an ounce.
The dollar bought around 81.55 yen, having hit a
1-1/2-week high of 81.74, and the euro rose as high as 107.35
yen after Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa
reiterated on Thursday that the central bank was ready to take
further monetary easing action to support the economy.
The euro emerged unscathed from a choppy session on Thursday
to trade around $1.3155, up around 0.1 percent on the
day. It had hit a high of $1.3166 following the Spanish bond
sale but then dropped on rumours, later denied, of a possible
French rating downgrade.
Spain has emerged as the latest source of concern for
investors in recent weeks, as long-standing fears about the
balance sheets of domestic banks after a property bust have
combined with worries about the country's fiscal health and
Madrid sold 2.5 billion euros in 2- and 10-year bonds, at
the top end of the targeted amount. But yields on the key
10-year bond were higher, reflecting fears that it may miss
budget deficit targets.
Finance ministers and central bankers were gathering in
Washington for a meeting of the G20 and the semiannual meetings
of the IMF and World Bank.
But the IMF's bid to win a big boost in funding to handle
the euro zone debt crisis hit a speed bump on Thursday as Brazil
demanded more power at the IMF for emerging economies as a
condition for lending it extra cash.
"Now, with the G20 convening in Washington, much attention
will be drawn to how and where the International Monetary Fund
draws up additional funding from in order to further beef up
Europe's bailout funds," said Christopher Vecchio, analyst at
"Should the G20 decide that the IMF's funding capacity is
adequate ... I expect the European and commodity currencies to
depreciate against the yen and U.S. dollar over the coming