Increased risk appetite lifts Asian shares after data, Fed

TOKYO Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:57am IST

1 of 2. The graphs of various market indices are displayed on an electronic board outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao/Files

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares rose on Wednesday as upbeat U.S. economic data boosted investors' risk appetite, while reduced expectations for further monetary easing from the Federal Reserve underpinned the dollar.

The dollar eased from a seven-week high against a basket of major currencies of 80.320 .DXY hit on Tuesday, but held near an 11-month high of 83.08 yen hit the day before.

An improved economic outlook propelled U.S. equities to multi-year highs, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX closing at its highest level since June 2008, while the Dow Jones industrial average closed at its highest since December 2007.

The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index .MIAPJ0000PUS, carrying the momentum from overnight, rose 0.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei average .N225 opened up 1.7 percent, climbing above 10,000 to a fresh seven-month high. .T

Australian shares rose 1.1 percent to a two-week high, driven by top miners and banks.

"The U.S. economic picture has clearly brightened, monetary easing efforts have increased liquidity and boosted equities worldwide and despite the fact that Japanese investors are heading into book-closing period, demand remains strong," said Hiroichi Nishi, equity general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities.

The U.S. central bank slightly upgraded its economic outlook on Tuesday, saying it expects "moderate" growth over coming quarters and a gradual decline in the unemployment rate, although it said the jobless rate "remains elevated.

U.S. retail sales posted their largest rise in five months in February, data showed on Tuesday, reflecting growing confidence by Americans to purchase goods.

In Europe, Germany's ZEW economic think tank's monthly sentiment survey jumped in March to its highest level since June 2010, confirming hopes that Europe's largest economy has recovered from a weak patch.

But the dollar's strength undermined the euro, which hovered near a one-month low of $1.3052 hit on Tuesday.

Brighter economic conditions in the world's largest economy raised hopes for stronger demand in oil and lifted prices.

Brent April crude settled at $126.22 a barrel on Tuesday, the highest close since April 8, 2011. U.S. crude inched up 0.1 percent to $106.82 a barrel.

Asian credit markets were steady early on Wednesday, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index barely changed from the day before.

(Additional reporting by Mari Saito in Tokyo; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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