* Yellen says considerable slack in U.S. labour market
* Putin calls for pro-Moscow separatists to postpone
* China exports and imports beat forecast, pointing to
* ECB and BoE in focus; euro and sterling near recent peaks
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, May 8 Asian shares got a lift on Thursday
from dovish comments by the U.S. Federal Reserve chief and
upbeat Chinese trade data that suggested some signs of
stabilisation in the world's second-largest economy.
Risk assets were also underpinned by signs of easing
tensions in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin
called on pro-Moscow separatists to postpone a secession vote.
Tokyo's Nikkei share average rose 0.9 percent while
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
rose 0.5 percent, inching away from five-week
lows hit on Wednesday.
European shares are also expected to rise, with Germany's
DAX seen edging up to 0.4 percent and France's CAC
as much as 0.3 percent.
Fed chief Janet Yellen repeated her stance that the economy
was still in need of lots of support given the "considerable
slack" in the labour market.
"Yellen ... put her emphasis on the ways in which the
economy and labour market were still falling short of the FOMC's
goals. She also emphasised risks to the economy from a potential
continuation of the recent 'flattening out' of housing
activity," said Barclays analysts in notes to clients.
"The clear implication is that accommodative policy will be
needed for a long time."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.7 percent and
the S&P 500 gained 0.6 percent.
Yellen's remarks also kept the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield
at 2.590 percent, near Monday's three-month low of
China's exports and imports returned to slight growth in
April after a surprise fall last month, supporting the case that
Beijing's use of targeted policy measures to underpin growth may
be starting to stabilise the economy.
Mainland Chinese shares rose 0.8 percent also
helped by bets on further stimulus measures after the central
bank warned of a deepening economic slowdown.
Adding to the improved mood, Putin called on pro-Moscow
separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession just five
days before it was to be held.
In what could be a breakthrough in the worst crisis between
East and West since the Cold War, Putin also announced he was
pulling Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border, although
the West said they saw no sign of such a move yet.
Emerging markets also held generally firm but in Asia, Thai
shares extended gains on rising political uncertainty
while Vietnamese shares fell the most in nearly 13 years
after Vietnam said a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of
its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea.
The euro traded flat at $1.3917, not far from
Tuesday's two-month high of $1.3952, ahead of the European
Central Bank's policy meeting later in the day. A majority of
investors are expecting no policy change.
A Reuters poll of more than 60 foreign exchange strategists
showed on Wednesday that they think the euro needs to reach
$1.42 before the ECB takes any action to weaken the currency.
Still, the vast majority believe that such action is unlikely to
The British pound held near a five-year high against the
dollar on rising expectations the Bank of England could tighten
its policy before the Fed, probably early next year. It last
stood at $1.6959 versus Tuesday's high of $1.6997.
With risk sentiment improving slightly, the yen stepped back
from a three-week high of 101.43 yen to the dollar set on
Wednesday, and traded at 101.77 yen.
Gold licked its wounds at $1,290.30 per ounce after
dropping 1.4 percent the previous day.
The Australian dollar climbed 0.5 percent to $0.9352
after local data showed that employment had risen more
than expected in April.
(Editing by Chris Gallagher and Jacqueline Wong)