* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.3 pct, Nikkei gains 1 pct
* Oil drifts without clear direction as Sandy fallout eyed
* Currencies return to recent ranges ahead of US jobs data
* European shares likely to fall
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Oct 31 Asian shares rose as risk appetite recovered after European equities and the euro firmed overnight, and investors looked to coming U.S. and Chinese data for fresh clues on direction.
Key currencies stayed in recent ranges on Wednesday, waiting for developments in Europe on efforts to solve the debt crisis and for the U.S. monthly jobs report on Friday as well as China's official manufacturing PMI on Thursday.
European shares were seen cautious after rising on Tuesday on a slew of shareholder-friendly corporate news. Financial spreadbetters expect London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open as much as 0.2 percent lower.
U.S. stock futures were up 0.1 percent, suggesting a mild uptick when Wall Street resumes trading on Wednesday, along with U.S. bond markets, after New York was lashed by Sandy, the worst storm to batter the metro area in 75 years.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 percent, off a two-week low hit on Tuesday. At its current level, the index has a marginal monthly gain of 0.2 percent, after September's 5.6 percent rise.
Australian shares ended with a 0.7 percent rise, supported by a rebound in copper prices which boosted miners. South Korean shares also climbed 0.7 percent on the day after the country snapped a three-month run of falls in industrial output in September, which raised hopes for a turnaround in Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.5 percent, bouncing off a near two-week low on strength in Chinese banks after the largest, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, posted forecast-beating third-quarter earnings. The index was set for a second-straight monthly gain.
"European markets had a nice bounce yesterday, so markets in Asia have really responded to the strong performance in Europe," said Guy Stear, head of research with Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
"It's difficult to say we are really in a 'risk on' period because people are really focused on company specific news" rather than macroeconomic news, he said, adding that Asian markets have not yet recovered to highs in mid-October.
Data showed on Wednesday that Taiwan's economy grew by slightly less than expected in the third quarter, and the Markit/JMMA Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index posted its fastest pace of contraction in 18 months in October.
Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia's benchmark index fell 0.7 percent after closing at a record high on Tuesday as strong quarterly earnings from banks helped lift sentiment. Malaysia shares eased 0.1 percent after a record close for the fourth straight session as investors piled into banking stocks.
Stear said Southeast Asian markets largely benefitted from how investors, worried about China's growth outlook, were putting money elsewhere in Asia, where they saw better prospects. But Southeast Asian markets look expensive and when worries about China subside, investors may pull money out of them and return to China, he said.
"International fund managers are increasing their allocation to this part of the world, but there is little reason for investors to come into the market now," said Hong Hao, chief strategist with Bank of Communications International Securities, referring to Chinese shares listed in Hong Kong.
Japan's Nikkei average closed up 1 percent, bouncing back from profit-taking the day before when the Bank of Japan's easing steps largely matched expectations.
The yen came off a one-week high of 79.275 yen against the dollar hit on Tuesday when the BOJ's latest easing measures spurred players to close their yen short positions. The dollar was last trading 0.1 percent lower at 79.52 yen.
"Concerns over Japan's fiscal problems and deteriorating trade balance are behind the current phase of yen weakness and the BOJ easing is just one catalyst," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.
"So having cleared the post-BOJ positions, the dollar/yen will likely steady ahead of the U.S. jobs data and the U.S. presidential election," he said, adding that dollar/yen resistance was seen at 80.50 to 80.60 yen, a 50 percent retracement of the 2012 high of 84.187 hit in March and the year's low of 77.13 touched in September.
The euro steadied at $1.2960, stuck to its $1.2800/$1.3200 range seen since mid-September.
Traders said the single currency was unlikely to break out of that range until fresh news emerged from Europe to provide clear progress in its debt crisis management.
Spain has yet to apply for an external rescue which would initiate the European Central Bank's bond buying programme to ease borrowing strains and global lenders haven't given Greece another tranche of bailout.
Euro zone finance ministers will hold a conference call on Wednesday to discuss progress in negotiations on the revised Greek bailout but are not expected to make any decisions yet, two euro zone officials said on Tuesday.
Oil prices recovered, with U.S. crude futures up 0.3 percent at $85.93 a barrel and Brent up 0.1 percent at $109.17 as investors waited to assess the impact from Sandy, which paralysed much of the U.S. East Coast region that consumes about one-quarter of the nation's total fuel.
Asian credit markets firmed along with equities, narrowing the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index by 5 basis points.