* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.2 pct, Nikkei up 0.1 pct
* Euro steadies, pops back above $1.29
* U.S. index futures edge up 0.1 pct after Friday gains
* Oil, copper firm, easy policy supports gold
By Alex Richardson
SINGAPORE, Dec 10 Asian shares touched a
16-month high on Monday as investors took heart from rising
factory output growth in China and a falling unemployment rate
in the United States that raised hopes about the outlook for the
world's top two economies.
The positive mood was tempered by Chinese trade data that
saw both exports and imports come in below forecasts, but
equities and commodities such as copper and oil remained in the
black. European shares were seen opening flat-to-higher.
"At this point, bad data is not as much of a surprise for
the market as good data is," said Christian Keilland, head of
trading at BTIG in Hong Kong.
The euro was under pressure, having been knocked by the
prospect of a recession in Germany and political uncertainty in
Italy after Prime Minister Mario Monti, an investors' favourite,
said at the weekend he intended to resign early.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan
inched up 0.2 percent and Tokyo's Nikkei share
average firmed 0.1 percent.
Financial spreadbetters called London's FTSE 100,
Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open up
about 0.1 percent.
The MSCI index rose more than 1 percent last week, its third
successive weekly gain, taking it to levels not seen since early
August 2011. There was a further boost for regional markets on
Sunday when China reported a November pick-up in factory output
and retail-sales growth to eight-month highs.
However, data released by China on Monday showed exports
rose in November at a much weaker pace than expected, while
imports were flat.
"The export slowdown shows external demand faces uncertainty
due to concerns over the fiscal cliff in the US," said Zhang
Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong.
"Nonetheless it does not change our view that growth is on track
for a strong recovery in Q4, as (growth) is mostly domestically
On Wall Street, the Dow and S&P 500 had risen
modestly on Friday after an unexpected fall in the U.S. jobless
rate. S&P 500 futures were flat on Monday.
MARKETS WATCH ITALY
In Europe, investors will be hoping the weakness in external
demand evident in the Chinese export number is not a pointer for
German trade data due later on Monday.
The euro slid in early trading towards a two-week low
of $1.2876 plumbed on Friday, before popping back above $1.29.
Investors had sold the euro after Germany's central bank on
Friday warned that the euro zone's biggest economy could soon
Italian Prime Minister Monti's surprise announcement at the
weekend came a few days after former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi abruptly withdrew support for Monti's technocrat
government, formed over a year ago in an effort to restore
Italy's credibility with investors.
"If Monti's pro-euro stance is to back off, that should
raise concerns about the euro," said Junya Tanase, chief
currency strategist at JPMorgan Chase in Tokyo.
Italian bond yields will be closely watched on Monday. The
10-year yield, the main barometer of investor confidence, stood
at 4.5 percent at the end of last week, 323 basis points higher
than the yield on the lower risk German equivalent but well
below the 7.3 percent peak hit last year, when the spread over
German Bunds hit 550 points.
The U.S. dollar rose about 0.3 percent against a basket of
Commodity markets were also generally firmer, with copper
, which draws strength from expectations of Chinese
industrial demand, rising 0.9 percent to around $8,105 a tonne
and oil rising around 0.5 percent.
Brent crude traded around $107.60 a barrel and U.S. crude
fetched about $86.40.
"Investors are slightly more optimistic about China's
economic recovery than before and that is supportive for oil,"
said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge Japan.
The easy outlook for monetary policy continued to support
gold, with the U.S. Federal Reserve expected to signal this week
it will continue to pump money into the economy in 2013. Also,
there was talk of a possible rate cut next year by the European
Spot gold firmed 0.2 percent to around $1,707 an