* MSCI Asia-Pacific index hits record high, 26-yr peak for Nikkei
* Spreadbetters expect European stocks to open mostly higher
* Dollar index edges back from 3-year lows as euro rally sputters
* Focus on China’s Q4 GDP data at 0700 GMT
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Asian stocks struck record highs on Thursday, with a rally by Wall Street supporting bullish investor sentiment, while the dollar pulled back from three-year lows as comments by European Central Bank officials tempered the euro’s recent rally.
Spreadbetters expect Britain’s FTSE to open 0.1 percent lower, Germany’s DAX to start 0.3 higher and France’s CAC opening up 0.2 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood little changed after rising as much as 0.4 percent to a fresh record peak.
South Korea’s KOSPI was effectively flat. Japan’s Nikkei reached its highest level since late 1991 earlier before ending down 0.4 percent. Shanghai rose 0.4 percent.
U.S. stocks jumped on Wednesday and the Dow closed above 26,000 for the first time as investors’ expectations for higher earnings lifted stocks across sectors.
Optimism over prospects for sustained strong global growth and improved corporate earnings have helped share markets rally at the start of 2018.
“Events related to North Korea pose potential risks, but there are very few factors holding equities back at the moment,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.
“And bullish U.S. stocks, higher Treasury yields and signs of the euro’s recent surge running its course are all dollar-supportive factors,” Ishikawa said.
Near-term market focus was on China’s gross domestic product data due at 0700 GMT. Analysts polled by Reuters expect the world’s second-largest economy to have grown 6.7 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, slowing from a rise of 6.8 percent in the previous quarter.
“The downward trend is clear. We expect investment to come under pressure this year but we are relatively optimistic about consumption and exports,” said Li Huiyong, an economist at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities in Shanghai.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was 0.25 percent higher at 90.765 after pulling back overnight from a three-year low of 90.279 set earlier in the week.
The euro was traded at $1.2204, slipping from a three-year peak above $1.2300 after some ECB officials voiced worries about the currency’s strength. The common currency had advanced this month on expectations that the central bank would take steps towards winding back on stimulus measures to normalise monetary policy.
The dollar was a shade lower at 111.180 yen after surging 0.75 percent overnight, when it bounced from a four-month low of 110.190.
The two-year Treasury yield hovered near a nine-year high of 2.051 percent reached on Wednesday on expectations the Federal Reserve will continue to tighten monetary policy this year.
In commodities, crude oil prices extended gains on data showing a decline in U.S. crude inventories and as rebels in Nigeria threatened to attack the country’s petroleum infrastructure.
U.S. crude futures rose 0.06 percent to $64.01 a barrel. On Tuesday, they hit a three-year high of $64.89.
Despite the gains, many analysts are warning that the recent oil price rally may lose momentum.
“We reckon that the upside is now limited for oil prices. U.S. shale oil output will increase by a good 111,000 barrels per day (bpd) next month to 10 million bpd, and will rise to about 11 million bpd by the end of next year,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com.
“This would put the U.S. on par with Saudi Arabia and Russia’s output,” Razaqzada said.
Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,327.60 an ounce, with the dollar’s bounce pulling it back from a four-month high of $1,344.43 set on Monday. (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Additional reporting by Kevin Yao in Beijing and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Sam Holmes)