* MSCI Asia ex-Japan hits six-week highs
* Gold jumps on strong physical demand, ETFs keeps declining
* BOJ confirms commitment to bold policy
* Dollar eases as markets await Q1 GDP figure
* European shares seen falling
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, April 26 Asian shares rose on Friday,
tracking global equities higher after an upbeat U.S. labour
market report, while the dollar eased on caution ahead of first
quarter growth data from the world's biggest economy.
European stock markets were seen falling, with financial
spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100, Paris's
CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX would open down as
much as 0.5 percent. U.S. stock futures were down 0.2
percent, also hinting at a soft Wall street open.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was up 0.2 percent, trimming earlier gains that
took the index up to a six-week high, as investors turned their
attention toward corporate earnings.
The pan-Asian index was set for a weekly gain of 2.3
percent, its best showing since early January.
Hong Kong shares led regional bourses with a 1
percent climb to their highest since mid-March, as a recovery in
physical commodity prices helped magnify earnings-driven
strength in Chinese financial and energy majors.
"Some individual companies are starting to show they are not
doing too badly, so this might be a good time for value
investors to start accumulating some positions," said Larry
Jiang, chief strategist at Guotai Junan International
Australian shares were little changed as gains early
in the session were lost with the retreat in gold prices which
rose more than 1 percent earlier in the day.
But an inflow of capital due to offshore demand from
Japanese institutions and insurance firms to Australia's
high-yielding shares in telecommunications and banks has helped
lift the market in recent sessions, said Tim Radford, global
analyst at Sydney-based advisor Rivkin.
South Korean shares edged down 0.2 percent as the
market took a breather from the week's relief-rally after the
country's top exporters posted better-than-expected results.
Japan's Nikkei stock average was also nearly flat,
retreating from Thursday's climb that put the index at its
highest since June 2008. A firmer yen also dented sentiment.
Japanese markets will be closed on Monday for a holiday.
Although it is still early in the quarterly reporting
season, only two out of the 16 Nikkei companies that have
reported so far beat market expectations, data from Thomson
Reuters StarMine showed.
Overnight U.S. S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent, driven by
stronger-than-expected earnings and the large drop in weekly
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The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Friday, a
widely expected move after it unveiled aggressive stimulus
measures earlier this month aimed at achieving its 2 percent
inflation target in two years.
The dollar, which has been pressured against the yen
throughout the session by profit-taking and yen-buying by
Japanese exporters, dipped slightly after the BOJ's decision.
"The BOJ outcome was as expected, and players may have used
that as an excuse to sell the dollar to make room for dollar
buying after the GDP figure," said Yuji Saito, director of
foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo. "If the GDP figure
is below forecasts, dollar selling may accelerate."
The BOJ on April 4 shocked financial markets by announcing a
radical monetary expansion campaign aimed at ending stubborn
deflation and reviving growth. The central bank's strong
reflationary policy commitment has further weakened the yen and
underpinned the dollar, lifting it close to the symbolic 100 yen
mark earlier this month.
But recent weak U.S. data has slowed the dollar's progress.
The dollar fell 0.8 percent to 98.46 yen.
U.S. first-quarter gross domestic product is forecast to
have grown 3 percent. If the number falls short of the 3 percent
mark, it could stoke concerns about loss of momentum as the
impact of automatic spending cuts kicks in.
The euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.3037, moving away
from a three-week low of $1.2954.
Expectations of a rate cut by the European Central Bank at
its meeting next week weighed on the euro.
Market belief that global monetary stimulus will remain in
place helped risk asset markets rebound from a sharp sell-off
earlier this month, triggered by disappointing U.S. and Chinese
manufacturing data which raised concerns about slowing momentum
in the world's top two economies.
Spot gold rose 0.4 percent at $1,473.46 an ounce,
recovering much of the loss it incurred in the massive sell-off
two weeks ago and was headed for its biggest weekly gain in
one-and-a-half years as bargain-hunters and physical buyers
across Asia supported prices.
"There's panic buying. Everybody is buying gold. It still
has a chance to go up to $1,500 and maybe a bit more. $1,525 is
then the big barrier," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee
Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
But a daily drop in exchange-traded funds' holdings
suggested that gold investors were still wary after this month's
slide which shocked ardent gold investors and bulls.
U.S. crude fell 0.8 percent at $92.94 a barrel and
Brent fell 0.5 percent to $102.85.