* Asian shares inch ahead as S&P climbs new peaks
* Tech stocks boosted by Apple, Facebook hits record high
* Emerging markets buoyed as investors seek yield
* NZ dollar skids as RBNZ signals pause after latest rate
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, July 24 Asian stocks inched higher on
Thursday, encouraged by upbeat corporate results and a record
close on Wall Street, while unrest in the Middle East and
Ukraine underpinned demand for high-rated bonds.
There was an air of caution ahead of a manufacturing survey
from China and a horde of other countries over the day. The HSBC
flash PMI is expected to inch up to 51 in July, which would gel
with other signs of stabilisation in the economy.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was up a slim 0.09 percent.
Japan's Nikkei eked out a 0.1 percent gain, while
South Korea's market added 0.2 percent despite data
showing the country's economy grew at the slowest pace in more
than a year in the second quarter. Seoul was expected to
announce stimulus measures later in the morning in a bid to
counter weak domestic demand and sluggish exports.
Traders noted that, despite all the geopolitical risk, money
was clearly flowing back into emerging markets in search for
yield. MSCI's index of emerging equities had jumped in
the past two sessions to reach its highest since January 2013.
"Emerging markets continue to be main benefactor from the
mix of low volatility, improving global growth and supportive
central banks," said analysts at Barclays in a note.
Helping sentiment is that the U.S. earnings season is
turning out better than first feared. Barclays estimates that of
the 22 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported quarterly
results since July 1, 64 percent beat earnings expectations and
65 percent beat revenue estimates.
Apple Inc gave one of the biggest lifts to the
market, rising 2.6 percent as concerns faded about the iPhone
maker's margins. Facebook Inc also beat forecasts and its
stock climbed almost 5 percent after hours.
All of which helped the Nasdaq gain 0.4 percent,
while the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent.
The Dow bucked the trend, pulled lower by a 2.3 percent drop
in Boeing Co shares. The U.S. aircraft maker reported a
52 percent jump in quarterly profit, but investors were spooked
by rising costs in its military tanker program.
The Dow closed down 0.2 percent.
NZ DOLLAR SKIDS
Still, the prospect of more sanctions against Russia over
the Ukraine crisis and a downed Malaysian airliner maintained a
safety bid for high-rated bonds. German 10-year yields
fell to 1.147 percent, just shy of record lows.
For U.S. Treasuries, investors were buying more liquid
shorter-dated paper, nudging two-year yields down to
In currencies, the New Zealand dollar led the action by
skidding to a six-week low after the country's central bank
signalled a pause following its fourth straight rate hike.
The kiwi dollar dropped nearly a full U.S. cent to $0.8606
after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) raised
rates by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent, but said it was time to
wait and gauge the impact of its recent policy tightening on the
Activity elsewhere was limited with the euro stuck
at eight-month lows around $1.3461, leaving the dollar index
hovering at a six-week peak.
Against the yen, the U.S. dollar firmed a tad to 101.54
, recovering slowly from the recent low of 101.09.
In commodities, gold was behind in the beauty competition
with equities and eased to $1,303.99 an ounce.
Crude oil prices were mixed. Brent crude for September
delivery added 6 cents to $108.09 a barrel, while U.S.
crude eased 6 cents to $103.06.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)