* Failure to reach U.S.-Japan trade pact weighs on Nikkei
* Escalating Ukraine tension saps investors' appetite for
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, April 25 Asian stocks struggled to rise
on Friday, as the impact of upbeat U.S. economic data and robust
U.S. tech shares faced off against fears of an escalating
Ukraine crisis that bolstered the safe-haven yen.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that
time was running out for Moscow to change its course in
Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Russia separatists on
Thursday and Russia conducted army drills near the border,
raising fears its troops would invade.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was a few ticks higher in early trade, while
Japan's Nikkei stock average skidded 0.5 percent as
disappointment over a failed attempt to reach a U.S.-Japan trade
pact weighed on sentiment.
The two countries made progress in trade talks at a
bilateral summit in Tokyo but did not reach the trade deal that
they were hoping to seal, Economy Minister Akira Amari said on
Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of
nationwide inflation, rose 2.7 percent in April from a year
earlier, a hair shy of forecasts. But it was still the fastest
gain since 1992 as a national sales tax hike drove up prices.
"With share prices falling, political stress is on the rise.
If additional easing measures are not introduced in May, the
BOJ's monetary policy may become a political issue," analysts at
Citi said in a note to clients.
On Wall Street overnight, stocks managed to shrug off the
rising Ukraine tensions after tech bellwethers Facebook
and Apple posted upbeat results on Wednesday and U.S.
economic data suggested that growth picked up pace in the second
Durable goods orders rose more than expected in March and a
measure of business capital spending plans
The dollar last bought 102.27 yen, down about 0.1
percent, while the euro also inched lower against its Japanese
counterpart to 141.43 yen.
The U.S. unit also edged lower against a basket of major
currencies, with the dollar index edging down to 79.760.
Against the dollar, the euro was steady on the day at
$1.3830, despite comments from European Central Bank
President Mario Draghi repeating recent concerns about euro
strength and the ECB's willingness to launch a "broad-based
asset purchase programme" if low inflation become entrenched.
The European unit was supported by an improvement in a German
business sentiment index, which indicated that Europe's largest
economy managed to overcome the rising Ukraine tensions.
In the commodities front, spot gold XAU= was slightly lower
at $1,293.09 an ounce after earlier touching its lowest levels
since February, though fears about the Ukraine crisis limited
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)