* Sentiment supported as Wall St looks past soft US data
* Nikkei not as fortunate as the dollar falls on the yen
* China loan data seen as positive, Japan GDP ahead
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Feb 17 Asian markets could take heart on
Monday after Wall Street managed to look past more soft U.S.
data, though Japanese stocks will be pressured by a stronger yen
as the dollar loses altitude.
Turnover is likely to be thinned with U.S. markets closed
for Presidents' Day, but Australian shares set the early tone
with a rise of 0.4 percent. MSCI's broadest index of
Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.2
percent, having bounced 5 percent in seven sessions.
The Nikkei may not fare as well since the dollar had
slipped under 102 yen to hover at 101.74 on Monday. A
stronger yen is viewed as negative for Japanese exports and
corporate profits, and often prompts knee-jerk selling in
In contrast, a lower dollar tends to be positive for
commodities priced in that currency, helping lift gold to near a
three-month peak at $1,319.89.
The main data on Monday will be Japan's gross domestic
product (GDP) report, which is forecast to show annualised
growth of 2.8 percent for the fourth quarter.
On Wall Street, the Dow ended Friday up 0.79 percent,
while the S&P 500 gained 0.48 percent. The MSCI global
stock index climbed 0.5 percent on Friday,
bringing its gains to 5 percent in eight sessions.
The gains came despite a disappointing reading on U.S.
industrial output, with markets seemingly content to put much of
the weakness down to bad weather.
For equity investors, the run of soft figures recently has a
silver lining in that it lessens the risk of the Federal Reserve
speeding up its tapering plans, while keeping any hike in rates
a very distant prospect.
"The Fed expects to continue tapering, but will be patient
when it comes to raising rates," said Michael Gapen, an
economist at Barclays.
He noted the Bank of England had signalled similar patience
with its policy, while the European Central Bank and the Bank of
Japan were under pressure to ease yet further.
"With two major central banks likely to ease further in
coming months, and the other two likely to wait before removing
accommodation, the recent improvement in global sentiment should
persist," said Gapen.
The BOJ's starts a two-day policy meeting on Monday. While
no move is expected, there is much speculation it will
eventually act to support the economy once an increase in the
sales tax goes through in April.
There was better news on China as data showed banks there
disbursed the most loans in any month in four years in January,
a surge that suggests the world's second-biggest economy may not
be cooling as much as some fear.
Chinese banks made 1.32 trillion yuan ($218 billion) worth
of new yuan loans in January, beating a 1.1 trillion yuan
forecast and nearly three times December's level.
It is usual for loans to spike in January, when banks try to
lend as much as they can to grab market share, but last month's
surge was still the largest since January 2010.
The next hurdle will be HSBC's flash PMI survey of
manufacturers for February later this week, given January's
disappointing result sent ripples through global markets.
The same day has a rash of flash PMIs for Europe and the
United States, along with U.S. inflation data.
Finance Ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20
also start their meeting in Sydney on Thursday. Events run
through to Sunday, when European Central Bank President Mario
Draghi, among others, gives a news conference.
Minutes of the February policy meeting of the Federal
Reserve are due on Wednesday but are not expected to differ
greatly from the steady outlook offered by Fed Chair Janet
Yellen last week.
Yellen still has to appear before the Senate after her
testimony was postponed due to bad weather, but no firm day has
been set as yet.