April 8, 2019 / 12:27 AM / in a month

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares underpinned by U.S. job news, China stimulus

* Asian stock markets : tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* Nikkei inches up to its highest since December

* Beijing signals more stimulus ahead

* Eyes on Fed minutes, latest Brexit deadline

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, April 8 (Reuters) - Asian shares edged higher on Monday as investors cheered a much-needed rebound in U.S. payrolls, while looking forward to more policy stimulus in China.

In a document published on the central government’s website late on Sunday, Beijing said it would step up its policy of targeted cuts to banks’ required reserve ratios to encourage financing for small and medium-sized businesses.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.1 percent to hold just below its recent seven-month top.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2 percent to its highest of the year so far, while South Korea and Australia both made modest gains. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 inched up 0.03 percent.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 closed higher for its seventh trading day in a row last week, the longest winning streak since October 2017.

However, a test looms as major U.S. banks kick off what analysts expect to be the first quarter of contracting corporate earnings since 2016.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co will get the ball rolling on Friday.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting are due out on Wednesday.

“Markets will be looking at just how dovish the FOMC has become,” wrote analysts at TD Securities in a note. “We put a very low but not zero chance on a rate cut discussion; conversely rate hikes are still on the horizon for the majority of Fed officials.”

“The minutes are likely to show peak dovishness in terms of nervousness about the outlook.”

JOBS RELIEF

There was a huge sigh of relief globally on Friday when the U.S. payrolls report showed a solid 196,000 rise in jobs in March, while annual wage growth slowed a little to 3.2 percent.

“This data assuages both the downside and upside fears,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 FX Strategy at Deutsche Bank. “Fears of soft growth are assuaged. On the upside, the wage data does not point to further acceleration that would threaten inflation.”

“It plays to idea that the U.S. economy remains reasonably robust, and does not justify any rate cut expectations over say the next six months, and is to that extent going to play to buying U.S. dollar dips versus the majors.”

The dollar was steady at 97.377 against a basket of currencies on Monday, but remained short of the March peak at 97.710 which marks major chart resistance.

The dollar held its recent gain on the Japanese yen at 111.68, but again needs to clear the March top of 112.12 to spark a true uptrend.

The euro has been undermined by a string of dismal data out of Europe and idled at $1.1216 not far from its recent 20-month trough at $1.1174.

Sterling had troubles of its own at $1.3035 as time ticks away to Britain’s departure from the European Union on April 12, with no deal agreed.

Prime Minister Theresa May must come up with a new plan to secure a delay from EU leaders at a summit on Wednesday.

In commodity markets, spot gold was a fraction firmer at $1,292.09 per ounce.

Oil prices held firm as the upbeat U.S. jobs data tempered fears about weakening global crude oil demand, and on expectations that an escalating conflict in Libya could tighten oil supplies.

U.S. crude was last up 34 cents at $63.42 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 31 cents to $70.65.

Editing by Sam Holmes

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