* Investors tense for China GDP amid speculation of a soft
* Shares take heart from late rally on Wall St, better US
* European bond yields hit new lows as Ukraine tensions
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, April 16 Asian markets took some comfort
from a late spurt by Wall Street on Wednesday as investors
tensed for a reading on Chinese economic growth, while rising
tensions in Ukraine kept safe-haven sovereign debt well bid.
Japan's Nikkei managed to bounce 1.6 percent having
found solid support around 13,885 for a couple of sessions.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was flat, with Australian stocks edging
0.2 percent up in early trade.
China is expected to report its slowest growth in five
years, with signs of waning strength already prompting
government action to steady the ship.
Growth is seen at 7.3 percent in the first quarter from a
year earlier, according to the median forecast of 25 economists,
down from 7.7 percent in the final quarter of 2013.
"Investors are quite nervous about today's Q1 GDP print.
There have been plenty of reports highlighting the risk of China
growth falling short," said Stan Shamu, strategist at IG in
Other data may take the edge off the weak start to 2014,
with a pick-up in monthly indicators for March forecast after
the Lunar New Year holiday season.
Adding to the caution was the evolving situation in Ukraine
after Russia declared the country to be on the brink of civil
war as Kiev said an "anti-terrorist operation" against
pro-Moscow separatists was under way.
That took a toll on European shares as the FTSEurofirst 300
index fell 0.96 percent, but gave a safe-haven boost to
bonds with yields on German debt falling to their lowest in 11
months at 1.475 percent.
Wall Street fared better thanks mainly to some solid
earnings reports. The Dow rose 0.55 percent and the S&P
500 0.68 percent. The Nasdaq lagged with a 0.29
percent gain but at least stabilised after recent sharp falls.
After the closing bell, Intel Corp beat Street
estimates and its shares rose 3 percent.
Yahoo Inc jumped 10 percent thanks to strong
results from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the Chinese e-commerce
company in which Yahoo holds a 24 percent stake.
Markets face another test later when Federal Reserve Chair
Janet Yellen speaks on monetary policy and the economic recovery
before the Economic Club of New York at 1625 GMT.
Sentiment could get a lift should she offer reassurance that
any rise in interest rates will come well after the Fed finishes
its asset-buying program.
In currency markets, the majors were confined to tight
orbits with the euro little changed at $1.3810 while the
dollar edged up a whisker to 101.90 yen.
The main mover was the New Zealand dollar which took a spill
after the country reported inflation at a surprisingly low 1.5
percent in the first quarter. That prompted markets to pare back
expectations on how far and fast interest rates might rise
The kiwi fell to its lowest in over a week at $0.8592
, and dragged down its Australian cousin to $0.9341
In commodities, gold tumbled about 2 percent on Tuesday on
heavy stop-loss orders placed by momentum traders as prices
broke below the key 200-day moving average.
Early Wednesday the metal was pinned at $1,301.36 an ounce
, well off Monday's peak at $1,330.90.
Benchmark Brent oil rose slightly to $109.36 on
developments in Ukraine, though gains were limited by the
prospect of a resumption of oil exports from Libya.
U.S. crude futures were up 4 cents at $103.79.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)