* Europe markets expected to open lower
* Australian shares edge down, Nikkei loses 0.8 pct
* Euro steady, yen not far off 2019 low
* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4
By Daniel Leussink
TOKYO, April 18 (Reuters) - Asian shares dipped on Thursday amid subdued trade after losses on Wall Street and some profit-taking ahead of a long Easter weekend.
European shares were set open lower, with Frankfurt’s DAX futures off a quarter of a percent and London’s FTSE futures down a fifth of a percent. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 gave up 0.25 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.4 percent, reversing course after brushing its highest since late July 2018 early in the trading session.
Australian shares were a shade lower while Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.8 percent and Chinese blue chips slipped 0.2 percent.
Wall Street shares drifted lower on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 giving up 0.2 percent as a drop in healthcare equities outweighed upbeat economic data from the United States and China.
The U.S. trade deficit fell to an eight-month low in February as imports from China plunged, data on Wednesday showed.
Separate figures from China earlier on Wednesday showed the world’s second-largest economy grew at a steady 6.4 percent pace in the first quarter, defying forecasts for a slowdown. Attention is now turning to how much more stimulus Beijing will apply without triggering more financial risks.
Investors’ immediate focus turned to the release of Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMIs) for the manufacturing and service sectors in Europe later on Thursday to provide more clues on strength of the euro zone economy.
“It’s going to be interesting to see if we see some stabilisation there in line with what we’ve been seeing in the stabilisation in the Chinese data flow,” said Chris Weston, head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.
Japanese manufacturing activity contracted at a slightly slower pace in April thanks to a pick-up in hiring, a flash PMI survey showed, but new export orders fell at the fastest pace in almost three years in a sign slow global demand remains a major pressure point.
Market participants are also eyeing signs of progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations.
Washington and Beijing set a tentative timeline for a fresh round of face-to-face meetings ahead of a possible signing ceremony in late May or early June, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
In the currency market, the safe-haven yen was up 0.2 percent at 111.86 yen per dollar, but still not far off a near four-month low of 112.17 brushed overnight.
The euro ticked up to $1.1300, adding to the previous day’s gain of 0.1 percent after investors bought the single currency on the back of the positive Chinese data.
“A recovering Chinese economy is also good news for the German economy, and thus positive for the euro,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.
“The ongoing surge in bund yields amid ‘risk on’ is a key factor supporting the euro,” he added.
The 10-year German bund yield hit a one-month high of 0.102 percent overnight, in a sharp rebound from a 2-1/2-year low of minus 0.094 percent set late last month.
The Australian dollar was a tad higher at $0.7182 as traders bet Australia’s central bank will not rush to ease rates after a rise in new jobs underlined strength in the country’s labour market.
The dollar index held steady at 96.979 after ending the previous session basically unchanged.
In commodity markets, oil prices were largely unchanged after settling lower overnight on U.S. government data that showed inventories were drawn down less than an industry report had suggested on Tuesday.
U.S. crude was last up 2 cents at $63.78 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent crude futures edged down 3 cents to $71.59.
Spot gold was last down 0.15 percent at $1,272.20 per ounce , languishing near its 2019 low. (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO; Editing by Kim Coghill and Richard Borsuk)