* European spreadbetters expect higher start
* China's indication of more stimulus supports stocks
* Euro still tentative ahead of euro zone CPI
* Copper on track for biggest monthly drop since June
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, March 31 Asian stocks edged higher in a
cautious start to the week on Monday, with investors holding out
hope that China would take steps to stimulate its economy.
European shares were also set for a higher start, with
financial spreadbetters expecting Britain's FTSE 100 to
open up by 9-11 points, Germany's DAX by 34-43 points
and France's CAC 40 by 9-12 points.
U.S. stock futures rose 0.4 percent, pointing to
modest gains on Wall Street later in the day.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
tacked on 0.4 percent, after rising to a
three-week high on Friday on heightened speculation Beijing will
launch new spending measures and on reduced tensions in Ukraine.
Tokyo's Nikkei stock average rose 0.7 percent.
China's Premier Li Keqiang on Friday sought to reassure
jittery global investors that Beijing was ready to support the
cooling economy, saying the government had the necessary
policies in place and would push ahead with infrastructure
China stimulus hopes were unable to shore up all equity
markets in Asia, however, with South Korea's KOSPI
trading nearly flat.
"It's difficult for the market to solely move on talks about
stimulus with no concrete plan to back them up," said Kim
Yong-goo, an analyst at Samsung Securities in Seoul.
The euro lingered near a one-month low hit against the
dollar on Friday after an unexpected drop in Spanish and German
inflation bolstered expectations the European Central Bank could
further ease monetary policy as early as Thursday.
"It all depends on whether the ECB views the recent slowdown
as a temporary pullback or a deeper problem. Given the abundance
of policymakers talking about the possibility of negative rates,
we believe they are growing more concerned about growth and
inflation," Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management
in New York, wrote in a note to clients.
The euro was already under pressure after suggestions of
more ECB action last week from Germany - whose policymakers have
in the past repeatedly voiced concerns about unorthodox monetary
The focus now turns to euro zone inflation figures due later
in the global session in light of Friday's weak Spanish and
German inflation data.
The euro was little changed at $1.3753 after hitting
a one-month low of $1.3704 on Friday.
Turkey's lira hit a two-month high against the dollar after
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in local polls
that had become a referendum on his rule, stirring hopes months
of political turbulence would ease. The lira brushed
2.165, its strongest against the greenback since late January.
YELLEN, U.S. DATA EYED
The dollar drew support from a rise in U.S. Treasury yields,
which were underpinned by expectations that the Federal Reserve
will continue to taper its massive stimulus programme and pave
the way for an eventual rate hike.
Yields of intermediate-dated Treasury notes neared two-month
highs on Friday. The sustained pressure on yields follows
comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen earlier this
month that raised the possibility of rate hikes starting as
early as the spring of 2015.
Yellen will speak in Chicago later on Monday and the focus
is on whether she maintains her stance on rates, which the
market has interpreted as hawkish.
Investors will also have a chance to begin gauging whether
the frigid winter was really the key cause behind the string of
soft U.S. data seen earlier this year, with the March Chicago
PMI due later in the session.
The dollar was nearly flat at 102.84 yen, hovering
below a two-week peak of 102.98 reached on Friday.
In commodities markets, gold remained under pressure amid an
improvement in risk appetite following upbeat U.S. consumer
spending data that brightened prospects for the economy.
Spot gold traded at $1,296.50 an ounce, near a
six-week low of $1,285.34 hit on Friday.
Prospects for Chinese stimulus lifted copper, but the metal
was still on track to close March with its biggest monthly fall
since June as the world's second-largest economy is still
expected to face a slow first quarter.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange
briefly touched a three-week high of $6,680.00 a tonne, but
prices are still on track to close the month down about 5
Simmering tensions between Russia and the West and
disruptions to African oil supplies helped U.S. crude trade near
a three-week high.
U.S. crude for May delivery edged down 30 cents to
$101.37 a barrel after settling on Friday at its highest since
(Additional reporting by Jungmin Jang in Seoul; Editing by
Chris Gallagher & Kim Coghill)