* MSCI Asia ex-Japan jumps as China trade data trumps
* China December exports grow 14.1 pct, imports up 6 pct
* Dollar inching closer to its highest since July 2010 vs
* Nikkei extends gains as yen resumes weakening trend
* European shares likely to creep higher
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Jan 10 Risk assets from Asian shares to
oil climbed broadly on Thursday as much stronger-than-expected
Chinese trade data magnified positive momentum from global
markets overnight, strengthening signs of recovery in the
world's second-largest economy.
European shares will likely track Asia higher. Financial
spreadbetters predicted London's FTSE 100, Paris's
CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX would open as much
as 0.2 percent higher. A 0.3 percent gain in U.S. stock futures
hinted at a solid Wall Street start.
China's exports grew 14.1 percent in December from a year
ago to hit a seven-month peak, handsomely beating market
expectations of a 4 percent rise.
Imports grew only 6 percent on the year, still double the
forecast, leaving a trade surplus of $31.6 billion from a
surplus of $19.6 billion in November and sharply above a
forecast of $19.7 billion.
But the outlook for 2013 remains cloudy with U.S. and
European demand for Chinese goods still subdued.
"China has shown signs of cyclical recovery since last fall,
and the trade figures offered a piece of evidence," said Tetsuro
Ii, the chief executive of Commons Asset Management. "But the
country is not expected to log as high a growth rate as in the
past. Budget wrangling keeps downside risks for the U.S. economy
intact while expectations remain low for European growth."
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
rose 0.7 percent, advancing immediately on the
data after hovering around levels barely changed from Wednesday,
and neared its highest level since August 2011 hit last week.
Hong Kong shares rose 0.8 percent to a new 19-month
high, with gains picking up in growth-sensitive counters.
The economic report from China, Australia's largest trading
partner, boosted Australian shares 0.3 percent higher
and the Australian dollar up 0.3 percent to $1.0542,
having hit a three-week high of $1.0554 at one point. The
Australian dollar rose to as high as 92.98 yen, its
highest since September 2008.
China's imports of iron ore rose 7.8 percent in December
from the previous month to a record 70.94 million tonnes and its
crude oil purchases edged up 1.3 percent for the month,
preliminary data from the General Administration of Customs
showed on Thursday.
London copper was up 0.3 percent at $8,100.50 a
tonne while U.S. crude futures rose 0.4 percent to $93.48
a barrel and Brent futures added 0.1 percent to $111.86
as the Chinese data stoked hopes for firmer commodities demand.
"The growth in imports has been higher than expectations,
which speaks highly for Chinese oil demand and global demand as
a whole," said Michael McCarthy, chief market analyst, CMC
Markets Sydney. "Clearly, it will be seen as a positive for
WEAK YEN BOOSTS NIKKEI
Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock average advanced 0.8
percent as the yen resumed its weakening trend after a pause in
the last couple of sessions, buoying exporters.
Foreign investors remained net buyers of Japanese stocks
last week for an eighth consecutive week, government data showed
"Investors can't jump off the bus because this unusual
'Japan boom' among hedge funds is set to last until an election
in July, with the government launching steps aimed at short-term
positive impacts," said Ii at Commons Asset Management.
The Japanese economy is expected to recover a little in 2013
if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies of massive fiscal
spending, aggressive monetary easing and a weaker yen produce
the momentum needed to lift Japan from stubborn deflation.
The dollar had risen about 12 percent over the past two
months against the yen, contributing to the Nikkei's 22 percent
jump in the same period, on expectations for bolder monetary
easing from the Bank of Japan under Japan's new government.
The dollar was up 0.3 percent to 88.11 yen, inching
closer to its highest since July 2010 at 88.48 reached on
Friday. The euro was also up 0.1 percent to 114.95
yen. It last week hit 115.995 yen, its highest since July 2011.
The euro eased 0.2 percent to $1.3042 ahead of the
European Central Bank's policy meeting, where it is expected to
keep interest rates steady.
Spain will test investor appetite for its debt when Madrid
holds its first debt sales of 2013 later in the session. The
Spanish auction is being watched for clues on the timing of a
much-anticipated request by the government for international
Wariness over debt issues is not confined to the euro zone,
with investors also watching U.S. debt ceiling negotiations
after lawmakers narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff at the turn of
Sentiment improved slightly in Asian credit markets,
tightening the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan
investment-grade index by 1 basis point.