* MSCI Asia ex-Japan inches up 0.3 pct, Philippines
* Aussie rebounds after slipping to 1-month low on sluggish
* Euro resilient, dollar index softer
* Markets await US jobless claims, Fed minutes, ECB meeting
* European shares likely rise
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Oct 4 Asian shares and the risk-sensitive
Australian dollar edged higher in choppy trade on Thursday, with
investors worrying about slow global growth and awaiting fresh
U.S. economic data and a European Central Bank policy meeting
later in the day.
U.S. stock futures rose 0.5 percent, as a CNN/ORC
snap poll said 67 percent of registered voters surveyed thought
Republican candidate Mitt Romney, seen as pro-business, won the
first debate with President Barack Obama.
Financial spreadbetters expect London's FTSE 100,
Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open as
much as 0.5 percent higher.
The rise in U.S. stock futures bolstered Japan's Nikkei
average, which was up 1.2 percent, adding to earlier
gains made on better-than-expected U.S. labour and
service-sector data overnight and a weaker yen.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
erased earlier losses to edge up 0.3 percent.
Chinese markets are closed this week for public holidays.
Australian shares were up 0.3 percent, after a
14-month closing high on Wednesday boosted by an interest rate
cut and a weaker local dollar. But South Korean shares
were flat while the Hong Kong market edged up 0.2
Phillipines shares were the region's best performer, with
the benchmark index up 1.4 percent and hitting a fresh
record, buoyed by consumer and retail sectors.
Stock price gains remained capped, however, as investors
have switched back to worrying about grim economic prospects
after global policy steps to support growth and calm market
jitters last month inspired a broad market rally.
"While market sentiment remains supported by last month's
policy steps, one can sense in the way the Australian dollar
moves that investors are mindful of downside risks, namely the
risk of Chinese growth slowdown," said Ayako Sera, senior market
economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.
"Assistance for Spain is a near-term focus but markets are
basically marking time until the issue of U.S. fiscal cliff is
clarified. Since that won't happen any time soon, investors will
continue weighing the effect of stimulus measures against growth
concerns," she said.
The "fiscal cliff" refers to the combination of broad-based
spending cuts and tax rises, both set to take effect on Jan. 2,
that could seriously dent U.S. growth.
The Australian dollar was up 0.2 percent to $1.023,
rebounding from a one-month low of $1.0182 hit earlier after
sluggish retail sales underscored restrained consumer spending
and made the case for more rate cuts.
The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates on Tuesday,
aiming to underpin a domestic economy feeling increasing pain
from the economic slowdown in China, Australia's largest export
market. A drop in commodities due tweak Chinese demand has
weighed on the resource-rich Australian economy.
"The unfortunate thing is that we haven't really seen the
bottom yet as far as Chinese economic growth is concerned," said
Raymond Chan, chief investment officer at Allianz Global
Later on Thursday, weekly jobless claims and U.S. factory
orders for August will be released, as well as minutes from the
U.S. Federal Reserve's Sept. 12-13 meeting at which the central
bank launched aggressive stimulus packages aimed at reducing
These reports precede Friday's monthly payroll data, the
first such labour market update since the Fed's action.
"The FOMC minutes may shed some light on any possible
dimensions surrounding the improvement in the labour market the
committee is looking for and scale of purchases they are willing
to undertake," ANZ Bank said in a research note.
After unveiling a programme last month for buying bonds of
struggling euro zone states that seek assistance to ease their
financing stress, the ECB is expected to keep interest rates at
a record low of 0.75 percent.
The euro edged up 0.2 percent to $1.2930, stuck in
the middle of a three-week low of $1.28035 touched on Monday and
a 4-1/2 month high of $1.31729 seen in mid-September.
The dollar index, which is measured against a basket
of six major currencies, was down 0.2 percent, but the greenback
rose to a two-week high of 78.72 yen.
SPAIN BUYS TIME
Sentiment has been weighed down by a delay in a widely
expected rescue for Spain, the latest symbol of the euro zone's
debt crisis, as well as ongoing negotiations between Greece and
its international lenders over the fiscal austerity details
needed to be cleared in exchange for a crucial bailout.
Still, expectations that Spain will ask for aid and the
ECB's bond plan have eased fears about the region's debt crisis.
Options investors sought the least protection against the
euro's drop in more than two years, with three-month euro/dollar
risk reversals trading as low as 0.90 percent, a
level not seen since March 2010.
Spain faces a test of investor confidence when it sells up
to 4 billion euros ($5.16 billion) of debt later on Thursday.
Portugal on Wednesday returned to bond markets for the first
time since its 78 billion euro ($101 billion) bailout last year.
U.S. crude was up 0.2 percent to $88.33 a barrel,
rebounding from a two-month low of $87.70 on Wednesday, while
Brent rose 0.4 percent to $108.58 after falling to a
two-week low of $107.67 on Wednesday.