* Asian shares rebound after big losses but gains cut after
soft China data
* Concerns over Ukraine, China slowdown and copper rout sap
* Gold hits 6-month high; euro, Swiss franc 2 1/2-year high
* European shares likely to rise, DAX seen up 0.5 pct
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, March 13 Asian shares cautiously
rebounded from two-week lows on Thursday but gains were pared
after disappointing retail sales and factory output data
underscored investors' concerns over slowdown in China.
A standoff in Ukraine and a massive fall in copper prices in
recent weeks also spooked investors, although a flat close on
Wall Street and some positive data in Australia and Japan helped
to cushion the blow.
European shares are expected to recoup some of their heavy
losses on Wednesday, with Germany's DAX seen as rising
as much as 0.5 percent and France's CAC 0.4 percent.
In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares
outside Japan rose 0.5 percent, recouping a half
of its losses the previous day, with Australian shares gaining
on strong local employment data.
But soft Chinese data dented many markets, with Japan's
Nikkei slipping 0.1 percent, erasing gains made after
Japanese machinery orders beat expectations. South Korean shares
<.KS11 >also erased most of its gains to end up 0.1 percent.
"What we're seeing today is a reaction to yesterday's sharp
decline based on price (valuation) merits," said Hana Daetoo
analyst Chang Hee-jong.
"But concerns about China remain the biggest issue for the
market, and this will continue to affect markets throughout the
first half of this year."
China's Jan-Feb industrial output growth came in below
forecasts for the combined January/February period, with retail
sales also weaker than expected, stoking worries growth could
fall as Beijing pushes for economic reforms.
"Jan-Feb figures were disappointing, implying weaker growth
momentum in China's economy. Probably a storm is coming," said
Gao Yuan, analyst at Haitong Securities in Shanghai.
A major victim of concerns over China, copper
dropped 0.4 percent to $6,508 a tonne, a day after it hit a
four-year low at $6376.25 hit on Wednesday.
After a drop of around 7 percent so far this month,
investors are worried about a possible unravelling of Chinese
loan deals using copper as collateral, which could cause some
investors more pains.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 reversed early losses and
ended nearly flat, outperforming many others thanks in part to a
string of positive data on the U.S. economy.
EURO AT 2 1/2 YEAR HIGH
The diplomatic stalemate between Russia and the West over
Ukraine has also led investors to buy traditional safe haven
assets as the European Union agreed on a framework on Wednesday
for its first sanctions on Russia since the Cold War.
Gold hit a six-month high of $1374.85.
U.S. Treasuries have erased all their losses after last
week's strong payrolls data, with the benchmark 10-year yield
at 2.73 percent versus its six-week high of 2.82
percent hit on Friday.
In the currency market, the Swiss franc hit a two-and-a-half
year high of 0.87322 franc to the dollar, while the
Japanese yen, which is under pressure from the Bank of
Japan's easing, also ticked up slightly.
The euro also hit 2 1/2-year high of $1.3949, in a
possible sign that the currency is regaining a safe haven status
as it recovers from the sovereign debt crisis.
In a symbolic move, the Irish government returns to the
market with its first regular debt auction on Thursday since it
asked for an international bailout three years ago.
On the other hand, the New Zealand dollar hit a 10-month
high of $0.8582 after the country's central bank raised
rates as expected and pointed to further tightening ahead to
curb inflationary pressures.
The action put the Reserve bank of New Zealand well ahead of
major central banks in developed economies, who are still
grappling with the aftermath of the financial crisis, helping
the kiwi against a basket of currencies at a post-float high
The Australian dollar also jumped 0.7 percent to
$0.9045 after data showed an outsized increase in
U.S. crude futures traded near one-month lows hit on
Wednesday after Washington announced a surprise plan for a test
release of strategic oil reserves, trading at $98.06 per
barrel, near Wednesday's low of $97.55.
But the European benchmark Brent held relatively firm at
$108.14 as it drew support from the unfolding crisis over