* Asia ex-Japan, Nikkei both poised for weekly losses
* European stock markets headed for positive start
* EM index remains subdued on Brazil fears; real maintains
* Dollar creeps back but holds most gains on strong US data
* U.S. crude set for best week since March on supply cut
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, May 19 Asian stocks were slightly
higher on Friday after a sluggish start, while the dollar held
most of the gains it made overnight on strong U.S. economic data
as some risk appetite returned despite caution over political
turbulence in the United States.
European shares, which posted losses overnight, are on track
for positive starts. Financial spreadbetter London Capital Group
expects Britain's FTSE 100 to rise 0.4 percent,
Germany's DAX to climb 0.1 and France's CAC 40
to gain 0.3 percent on the open.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
reversed earlier losses to gain 0.1 percent,
shrinking its weekly loss to 0.5 percent.
Japan's Nikkei rallied 0.1 percent, but remains
headed for a 1.8 percent loss for the week.
Australian shares slipped 0.25 percent, widening
weekly losses to almost 2 percent.
Chinese shares were little changed, up 0.4 percent
for the week. Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 0.3 percent,
set for a weekly rise of 0.1 percent.
Malaysian shares advanced 0.2 percent and the
ringgit was almost 0.1 percent higher at 4.323 per
dollar, after first-quarter gross domestic product grew at 5.6
percent from a year ago, the fastest pace in two years.
"The trend we have seen with Asian markets this morning has
been one of mixed performances," said Jingyi Pan, market
strategist at IG in Singapore.
"While U.S. markets managed to stage a moderate recovery
with investors finding good entry points after the heavy
sell-off, Asian investors are likely choosing to err on the
cautious side, especially with multiple event-risks in the week
These events include testimony by former FBI director James
Comey at a Senate hearing and an OPEC meeting in Vienna, she
U.S. President Donald Trump's dismissal of Comey last week
set off a political firestorm that led to Wall Street's biggest
sell-off in over eight months on Wednesday after media reported
that Comey had written a memo stating that Trump had asked him
to drop a probe into his former national security advisor's
On Thursday, Trump tersely denied the allegations and
decried a "witch hunt" against him.
The Justice Department's appointment on Wednesday of a
special counsel to probe possible ties between Russia and
Trump's presidential campaign helped calm markets and lifted
Wall Street on Thursday.
The Dow gained 0.3 percent, the S&P was up 0.4
percent and the Nasdaq jumped 0.7 percent overnight.
MSCI's emerging markets index rose 0.1 percent.
It slumped 2 percent on Thursday, its biggest one-day loss
since November. It was dragged down by an 8.8 percent slump in
Brazilian stocks, on a report President Michel Temer
supported an attempt to bribe a potential witness to remain
silent in the country's biggest-ever graft probe.
Temer refused on Thursday to resign after the Supreme Court
authorized an investigation into the allegations. The
investigation raised the possibility a second Brazilian
president could fall in less than a year and sparked doubts
Congress would pass Temer's ambitious austerity agenda.
The Brazilian real was fractionally weaker at 3.3685
per dollar on Friday, after plunging as much as 8.5 percent to
its lowest level since December on Thursday. The decline was the
biggest since the currency was devalued in 1999 and wiped out
all of this year's gains.
Strong economic indicators from the U.S. helped lift the
It edged back 0.1 percent to 111.36 yen, but managed
to retain most of Thursday's gains. It is set for a 1.7 percent
fall over the week.
Data showed a sharp acceleration in factory activity in the
mid-Atlantic region in May, and an unexpected drop in new
applications for unemployment benefits.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a
basket of six major peers, was slightly lower at 97.793, after
gaining 0.3 percent on Thursday. It's set to end the week 1.5
Bitcoin hit a record high of 1,910 in Asian
trade. The digital currency has more than doubled since March,
driven by soaring demand for crypto-assets with the creation of
new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain
Sterling strengthened slightly to $1.295.
On Thursday, it broke through $1.30 for the first time since
September after news of better-than-expected British retail
sales growth. But it fell back on technical selling and a
stronger dollar to close 0.2 percent lower.
The euro also climbed 0.1 percent to $1.111.It
touched a six-month high on Thursday but surrendered the gains
to close 0.5 percent lower.
In commodities, oil prices continued their gains for the
third straight session, set to post a 4 percent weekly rise, on
optimism that producers will agree to rein in output for longer.
U.S. crude futures hit a three-week high, and were
last trading up 0.8 percent to $49.76 a barrel.
Global benchmark Brent was up 0.7 percent at $52.89,
near a four-week high hit earlier.
Gold inched higher, clawing back some of Thursday's losses.
Spot gold added 0.15 percent to $1,248.62 an ounce, set
to post a weekly gain of 1.6 percent.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Eric Meijer)