* MSCI Asia ex-Japan hits two-week high
* Nikkei touches seven-month high
* Euro eases vs dollar, touches seven-month high vs yen
* Oil, gold retreat after rally while dollar index inches up
* European shares likely decline
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Nov 26 Asian shares inched up on Monday
on hopes that Greece can avoid a near-term bankruptcy, with the
market focusing on a euro zone finance ministers meeting later
in the day, but a regional Spanish vote favouring separatist
parties capped gains.
U.S. stock futures were down 0.3 percent, suggesting
a soft Wall Street open, and European shares were seen falling,
with financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100
, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to
open down as much as 0.3 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was up 0.2 percent to a two-week high.
It marked the sixth consecutive day of advances and comes
after the euro and global shares climbed on Friday on
expectations that an agreement will be reached soon to disburse
aid for Greece, and after a rise in Germany's Ifo business
"There is optimism around in regards to the euro area's
ability to achieve a deal on Greece," said Emma Lawson, senior
currency strategist at the National Australia Bank.
But worries about the Spanish vote and the implications for
Madrid's push for fiscal austerity helped the euro slip 0.1
percent to $1.2960, pulling back from a three-week high
of $1.2991 reached on Friday.
Against the yen, however, the single currency hit a
seven-month peak of 107.13.
The yen was near a 7-1/2-month low of 82.84 yen to
the dollar hit last week. It has been weakening on expectations
of further monetary policy easing with the likely advent of a
new Japanese government next month.
The dollar inched up 0.1 percent, after falling to a
three-week low of 80.128 against a basket of major currencies on
Friday as risk appetite gained.
Australian shares rose 0.2 percent on gains in
energy and mining stocks, but Hong Kong and Shanghai
shares eased slightly.
Japan's Nikkei stock average gained 0.8 percent
after rising to a seven-month high earlier on Monday on views
that a weaker yen will boost earnings for exporters.
"Although some investors are cautious about the fast-paced
gains in the Japanese market, they will likely stay buyers on
the back of the improving trading environment in the global
market," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko
EUROPE HOLDS KEY
On Sunday, separatists in the Spanish region of Catalonia
won an election but failed to get the resounding mandate they
need to push convincingly for a referendum on independence.
The win heightens concerns about a potential negative impact
on the Spanish economy and the country's finances, as Catalonia
accounts for 20 percent of the economy and provides the most tax
revenue to the central government.
"While the result helps tone down the risk of the government
being forced to give more autonomy to Catalonia in its fiscal
policy, the underlying discomfort the province may be feeling
about its big fiscal burden may persist," said Masafumi
Yamamoto, chief FX strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.
He added that the result may weigh on the euro more when
trading starts in Europe, where the euro's liquidity is far
On Friday, European shares posted their best weekly gain so
far this year on hopes for Greece and Germany's solid Ifo data,
which followed firmer manufacturing reports from China and the
United States released earlier last week.
London copper edged down 0.1 percent to $7,769.75 a
tonne after rising for two weeks in a row. While signs of
economic recovery in top consumer China helped support prices,
China's official purchasing manufaturers' index due later in the
week will be awaited for more confirmation of the trend.
"A positive PMI number should help a little bit, but we have
not seen any significant improvement in the real economy yet,"
said Beijing-based metals analyst Wan Ling of commodities
research house CRU Group.
The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global
commodities benchmark, rose to its highest close since Oct. 23
on Friday -- its best weekly performance since mid-September
with a 1.9 percent gain.
Spot gold eased 0.1 percent to $1,750.35 an ounce on
Monday after rising above $1,750 for the first time in five
weeks on Friday.
U.S. crude fell 0.5 percent to $87.88 a barrel and
Brent eased 0.2 percent to $111.12.
Asian credit markets steadied, with the spreads on the
iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index barely
moved from Friday levels.